By: Erica Pereira, Esq.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all and your families a Happy New Year! Tonight is the night where people spend the night with friends and loved ones socializing and celebrating, feasting and drinking until the early morning hours. Whether you are ringing in the New Year’s at a house party or at a big venue, there are a few things that you should keep in mind in order to assure that you and your loved ones are safe and that you know of the laws in place if you are throwing a party.
If you are the one who is throwing a New Years Eve party, the law regarding social host liability is relatively clear in Massachusetts. Under the law, MGL c. 138 section 34, the social host of a party is only responsible for the actions of its intoxicated guests if the host either serves the alcohol or exercises control over the supply of alcohol. This means that owners of houses used for house parties cannot be held liable for a guest’s negligence unless the owner provided the alcohol to the guests or controls the distribution of alcohol to the guests.
Furthermore, if you are at a venue tonight, know that the laws regarding liability of stores and restaurants/bars for the negligence of its intoxicated patrons, should that patron cause an automobile accident and injure a third person after leaving the venue. The Dram Shop Law (MGL c. 231 section 60J) prohibits alcoholic beverages to be sold or given to intoxicated persons or minors. In essence, bartenders or servers must not serve alcohol to an already reasonably observable intoxicated person. If a person is already visibly intoxicated (slurring speech, stumbling, etc…) and the bartender makes a decision to continue to serve that patron, the bar/restaurant could ultimately be responsible if that patron later causes an automobile accident and causes an injury to another person.
I ask that you keep these thoughts in mind tonight, whether you are throwing your party or whether you are simply an attend. Also, please use caution when driving home tonight and please do not drink and drive.
Most importantly, we would like to wish you and yours a Happy and safe 2013.