It is Christmas party season! Whether it is for work or with friends and family, most people will attend at least one Christmas party in the next two weeks. These Christmas parties are meant to be a joyous time of celebration and often involve alcohol being served. This could lead to an increased number of drunk drivers on the road as well as an increase in the number of alcohol-related car crashes and deaths. So, would the host of the party be responsible if one of their guests drank too much and caused a car accident?
In some states, yes, the host of a Christmas party can be civilly responsible if one of their guests caused a car accident after the host served alcohol. However, in Florida, it is different.
In Florida, if a host serves alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age of 21, the host can be responsible for the minor’s negligence. Under Florida Statute 768.125, Liability for injury or damage resulting from intoxication, a person who willfully and unlawfully furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor.
In addition, under Florida’s “Open House Party” law, it a crime for any person 18 years or older to host a party and knows that an alcoholic beverage is in the possession of or being consumed by a person under 21 years old at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage may be charged with a second degree misdemeanor. If the violation results in serious bodily injury or death to a third party as a result of the minor’s consumption, the host may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.
However, Florida law is different when it comes to adults consuming alcohol at a Christmas party or similar event. Under Florida Statute 768.125 – Liability for injury or damage resulting from intoxication, a person who furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person unless the host knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.
Here are a few tips for a Christmas party host to ensure everyone’s safety during the upcoming holiday party season and prevent them from being sued because of one of their guest’s negligence:
- Provide alternative drink options for underage guests, and don’t serve alcohol to guests under the age of 21.
- Don’t turn a blind eye to underage consumption. Instead, be proactive when you see something suspicious from your underage guests.
- Educate your underage children about the dangers of drinking and driving and the “Open House Party” law.
- While the law may not specifically impose liability on a social host for serving guests who are over the age of 21, take steps to ensure the safety of your adult guests too. Download the Uber or Lyft ap or advise guests to take advantage of AAA’s free holiday Tow to Go program, or similar options.
Throw the best Christmas party imaginable (and make sure to invite me), but do it safely. Even though you cannot be liable for your adult guests’ drinking, you still want to do your part to make sure everyone gets home safely and no one in innocently injured or killed in a car accident caused by your guest.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.