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Minors and DUIs: Can a Party Host Be Held Responsible?

Summertime is a time for celebration – graduations, weddings, Independence Day or simply getting together to enjoy the season with family and friends. Those of us planning to host a party or two this summer may not be thinking about the potential risks of serving alcohol to our guests. However, if social hosts fail to take precautions when it comes to alcohol, they could face potential liability.

Colorado law typically limits the responsibility of “social hosts” — i.e., individuals who serve alcohol to guests in a private setting — for any injuries caused by intoxicated partygoers who get behind the wheel. When the drunk driver is a minor, however, a social host could be responsible for any injuries or property damage that result.

Our Colorado Springs DUI Accident Lawyer Further Explains Social Host Liability for Intoxicated Guests

Colorado, like most states, has a “dram shop” law that regulates the licensing and serving of alcohol. Although an intoxicated person holds primary responsibility for any damages he causes while under the influence, dram shop laws also impose some liability on third parties such as bars and other businesses that sell alcohol, particularly if they serve alcohol to minors or if they serve visibly intoxicated patrons.

Social hosts are usually exempt from state dram shop laws, and Colorado is no exception. In Colorado, social hosts are not responsible for any injuries or damage caused by their guests after the party, if those guests are over the age of 21. However, a social host could be liable for injuries and damage caused by her minor guests if she:

  • Knowingly serves alcohol to someone under 21; or
  • Knowingly provides a place for someone under 21 to drink alcohol.

In other words, even if a host is careful not to serve or provide alcohol to minors at a party, that may not be enough to avoid liability. If the host knows minors are drinking in her home, even if she did not provide the alcohol herself, she could still be responsible if one of those guests goes on to cause an accident.

Taking Precautions When Minors Are Present

Social hosts need to take extra care if they plan to serve alcohol at a party where they know minors will be present. Following a few simple rules will help keep kids safe and reduce the possibility of accidents:

  • If your teenager plans to invite friends to the party, agree on the guest list in advance.

Any invitations should be extended individually and not posted to social media to avoid extra or unwanted guests. Turn away any party “crashers.”

  • Plan activities that do not involve alcohol and have plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks on hand.
  • Set party rules for your teenagers, including prohibiting anyone under 21 from drinking alcohol. If alcoholic drinks are accessible to adult guests, consider assigning a responsible adult to keep an eye on the alcohol to ensure underage guests do not access it.
  • If a teen shows up to the party with alcohol, be prepared to confiscate it and contact their parents.

Holding Social Hosts Responsible for Underage Drunk Driving Accidents

If you or someone you love has been involved in a car accident with an underage drunk driver, a party host could be responsible for your medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering and other costs, including compensation for wrongful death.

Our knowledgeable DUI accident lawyers can help you investigate and build your case. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 719-471-3000.

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