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Hosting A High School Graduation Party This June? What You Should Know About PA Social Host Law

June is the last month of the school year in Pennsylvania.  Seniors across the state will graduate this month.  Many families will host graduation parties for their seniors.  People invited to the parties typically include family, family friends and high school kids, who are friends with the graduating seniors.  Of course, hosts will provide food and beverages for their guests.  Because there are adults, the hosts will most likely provide alcohol as well.  However, because many of the guests include underage high school students, hosts have to think about how to serve alcohol to adults and prevent underage kids getting access to it.

PA social host party liability-Phila injury lawyerFor instance, a bucket or cooler of beer probably should not be placed in an area where it’s easily accessible for the teens.  In addition, it should not be placed in an area where no adults are around.  Rather, the alcohol should be placed by a table where adults are sitting at all times so underage high school kids will not be able to grab one while going unnoticed.

Another mistake parents may make is allowing their child who graduated and their friends to have a couple of beers at the party.  Because parents believe their underage children will go out and drink to celebrate, they believe in letting their underage children and their guests drink at home because it is safer.  They can serve them alcohol and monitor them.  However, this is a mistake.  If an underage guest is hurt as a result of being served alcohol, i.e., fall down a flight of stairs after becoming intoxicated, the hosts are going to be held liable for the underage guest’s injuries.

Pennsylvania imposes “social host liability” on those who sell or supply alcohol to individuals under 21 years old.  Social host liability does not only apply to underage kids, it also extends to serving alcohol to adults.

Related: What is Social Host Liability?

If guests, whether minors or adults, become intoxicated and hurt themselves or another person, hosts may be responsible for the guests’ injuries, as well as the other person’s injuries.

Below are situations when hosts may be liable.

Minor Causes Car Accident After Leaving Party

At a graduation party, the hosts allow their teenaged guests to drink.  One of the seniors gets drunk and decides to leave without the hosts or any other guests noticing.  On his way home, he causes a head-on collision with another vehicle.  The driver of the other vehicle is seriously injured.

In this situation, the hosts of the party are liable under the “social host liability” doctrine.  Because they served the minor alcohol who then caused injury to another person, they will be held responsible for the other person’s injuries.

The minor will also be held liable for the other person’s injuries.  If the injured driver files a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit, the minor and the hosts will be the named defendants.

Minor Causes Injury To Another Guest At The Party

Using the same example, instead of leaving the party, the senior starts a fight with another guest for no reason after becoming intoxicated.  The senior punches the other guest multiple times causing the guest to break his nose and lose some teeth.

Again, the hosts will most likely be held liable for the injuries sustained by the injured guest.  In addition, the intoxicated senior would also be liable.

Minor Hurts Himself

If in the above 2 situations the minor is hurt as well, the hosts will also be liable for the minor’s injuries.  For instance, if the intoxicated minor in the first example is catastrophically injured as a result of the head-on collision, the hosts will be held liable for the intoxicated minor’s injuries.  If the minor is injured during the fight with the other guest, the hosts may also be held liable for the intoxicated minor’s injuries.

Recoverable Damages

Individuals who are injured in these types of situations have legal rights.  They may file personal injury lawsuits against at-fault parties (the hosts and the intoxicated minors) and financially recover for their damages and injuries which include:

  • medical expenses,
  • lost wages, if applicable,
  • out of pocket expenses, and
  • pain and suffering.

FREE Consultations

If you have questions about social host liability or have a loved one who was injured due to underage drinking, call Daniel J. O’Brien, Esq. to schedule a FREE consultation.  Mr. O’Brien is a well respected personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia, PA and New Jersey.  877.944.8496

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