Be Aware of Arizona’s Social Host Liability Laws This Holiday Season
By Zachary Mushkatel on December 15, 2015
’Tis the season for gift-giving, family get-togethers and holiday parties – and alcohol may flow freely at many of these gatherings. This, in part, explains why drunk driving-related car accidents tend to increase around the holiday season.
In some states, “social host liability” laws impose legal responsibility on individuals or entities who serve alcohol to others who then cause injury or death to others in a drunk driving crash.
Our personal injury lawyers encourage Arizona residents to familiarize themselves with these laws before they conduct their party or social event as it will help them and their guests to stay safe this holiday season.
What is a ‘Social Host’ Anyway?
Before discussing the potential liability of social hosts, it is helpful to understand who or what is a “social host.”
Under Arizona law, a “social host” is any person or entity that hosts a social event, party or gathering where alcohol is served or distributed on the premises.
Designation as a “social host” does not depend on:
- Whether you are an individual or a business entity
- How large of a gathering you are hosting
- Where the party or gathering is taking place (although Arizona’s statutes do make a distinction between a location licensed to serve alcohol and unlicensed premises
- Whether you furnished the alcohol – although in most social host liability cases it must usually be shown that you either knew that alcohol was being served on the premises or had reason to know alcohol was being served.
What Potential Liability Does a Social Host Have in Arizona?
In contrast to most other states, the potential liability of social hosts is very limited under Arizona law. There are really only two situations in which a social host can be held legally responsible for the injuries and losses of a person who was injured by a guest of the social host after the guest became intoxicated at the host’s gathering:
- If the social host is licensed to sell or provide alcohol, then the social host may be held responsible for any harm a guest inflicts on another while in an intoxicated state due to alcohol provided at the event; and/or
- The social host can be held responsible if an underage person consumes alcohol while at the social host’s event, and the minor thereafter inflicts harm to another due to his or her intoxicated state.
Prevent Underage Drinking During Holiday Gatherings
As noted above, you may still be found responsible for injuries and losses even if you yourself did not provide alcohol to an underage person.
Consider these tips for keeping your alcohol secure and to prevent underage drinking and driving at your social event:
- Do not serve alcohol to minors.
- Keep your supply of alcohol in your immediate presence and/or securely locked at all times.
- Do not invite or permit guests to bring alcohol onto your premises so you will know how much alcohol you have on hand and can better determine if alcohol is missing.
- Do not allow a stranger or someone you do not trust to serve or distribute alcohol to guests.
- Consider hiring a babysitter to watch children at the party, or if the children are old enough, plan for the children to have an outing or activity away from the party.
Above all, talk to your teenage children beforehand about the dangers of drinking and your expectations. Encourage them to maintain an open line of communication with you and to speak with you any time they are offered alcohol – or when they see any underage person at your party consuming alcohol.
Tips for Being a Responsible Social Host this Holiday Season
Even if Arizona’s social host liability laws do not apply to you, it is always preferable to prevent drunk driving accidents rather than to contribute to them. Here are some simple tips that can be used to prevent intoxicated guests at your party from causing injury or death to others:
- Keep a watch on others at the party and monitor, if possible, their level of intoxication.
- If someone appears intoxicated, call for a cab or offer to drive him or her home. If at all possible, do not allow him or her to drive home.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you will serve to each person.
- Remain sober yourself so you can monitor other guests.
- Have a designated driver and/or cab company available for intoxicated guests who need to leave.
- Discourage guests from bringing their own alcohol to the event.
Remember: Being responsible and safe does not keep you from having fun and being merry.
The law firm of Mushkatel, Robbins, & Becker, PLLC, is available to assist those who have been injured in or around the Phoenix metro area in holiday traffic accidents, including Glendale, Surprise, Sun City or Scottsdale.
Call our firm or contact us through our website to discuss your case with our experienced and compassionate legal team to learn your rights and how they can be protected and asserted through knowledgeable legal counsel.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.