Hosting a holiday party? Don't let your guests drink too much.


Posted by: Wiley Lavender on Monday, December 2, 2019

Very often, people will host a holiday party in their homes which includes the serving of alcoholic beverages. During these joyous occasions, it is important to have fun but you also need to be careful. Being a party host can create issues of both civil and criminal liability under the laws of New Jersey.

New Jersey civil law currently provides that a person who sustains bodily injury or injury to real or personal property as a result of the negligent provision of alcoholic beverages by a social host to a person who has attained the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages may recover damages from a social host under a very specific set of circumstances. 

New Jersey civil law creates civil liability when a social host:

  1. The social host willfully and knowingly provided alcoholic beverages either:
    • to a person who was visibly intoxicated; or
    • to a person who was visibly intoxicated under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another; and
  2. The social host provided alcoholic to the visibly intoxicated person under circumstances which created an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm to the life or property of another.  Further, the social host failed to exercise reasonable care and diligence to avoid the foreseeable risk; and
  3. The injury arose out of an accident caused by the negligent operation of a vehicle by the visibly intoxicated person.

Underage Drinking Issues

Additionally, New Jersey criminal law imposes criminal liability when anyone who knowingly offers or serves alcoholic beverages to underage guests.  In New Jersey, the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol is 21 years of age and older.  Although a person who is 18 has many rights under New Jersey law, buying/drinking alcohol in not one of them.

Current New Jersey law defines a Social Host as a person who invites another person onto an unlicensed premises for purposes of hospitality. The Social Host is not the holder of a liquor license for the premises.  There is no requirement to have a liquor license.  Further, the Social Host must be of legal age. And, the guests must be of the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.

Recent New Jersey court decisions indicate that civil liability for negligently providing alcoholic beverages should be expanded beyond the current laws.

Imagine being out of your house when your 18-year-old child decides to host a party with alcohol. 

The consequences, both civil and criminal, from negligently serving alcohol are enormous.  Social Hosts must take every precaution to eliminate drinking by persons who should not do so.  Make your holiday party fun!

Contact us to get the advice and guidance you will need regarding the legal consequences of being a Social Host.  Additionally, call us if you are the parent of an underage person who possessed, provided or consumed alcoholic beverages.