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Why Do We Need a Bill Creating Social Host Liability?

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The Consumer Attorneys of California along with other groups, including Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, strongly support AB 2486 authored by Mike Feuer which will create “social host liability” for persons who knowingly serve alcohol to a minor.

“Social host liability” means that someone who is a “social host,” not a person serving alcohol for money like a bar, but someone entertaining in their home, can be held responsible for injuries or death sustained by a person underage involved in an accident and to any third person who also becomes involved. The underage person would have to be leaving the home of the “social host” and get into this accident while under the influence of alcohol served by the “social host.”

To make this clearer, suppose your underage child is at a barbecue at a friend’s house and the friend’s parent is there and knows that your child and his child are both not old enough to drink alcohol. At this event, the parent serves beer to all the people present even those that he knows are not yet of legal drinking age. After the event, one of the underage drinkers leaves and gets into an accident where he is severely injured and he severely injures a third party. According to this bill, the parent who served the liquor to the underage drinker can be sued for the drinker’s injuries and the injuries to the third party.

The CAOC supports this bill as many other states have such laws and have seen some decrease in underage drinking and driving. Hopefully, an adult over 21 will think twice before serving a minor alcohol if they face a certain liability for injuries caused by that minor. At the present time, California has a total immunity for a “social host” whether they are serving adults or minors for any injuries caused by drunk people leaving their homes. Some states hold the “social host” responsible even for accidents caused by adults who have been drinking to excess at their homes. Even more hold “social hosts” liable for accidents caused by underage drivers to whom they have served alcohol, knowingly or not. It is necessary to remember that a “social host” is someone serving liquor at home, not for a commercial purpose as a bar or club would. They fall under a different category.

It is not known why California gives this immunity to “social hosts,” but this bill will at least make them civilly liable for any accidents. This does not involve the criminal code wherein it is illegal to serve a minor alcohol. This bill creates a new civil liability for “social hosts” who serve people alcohol knowing that they are underage.

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