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Holiday part hosting brings special responsibilities when alcohol is served

You may be planning some get-togethers during the holiday season and if you’re HOSTING any of those gatherings you should know about “Social Host Liability.”

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You may be planning some get-togethers during the holiday season and if you’re HOSTING any of those gatherings you should know about “Social Host Liability.”  

Attorney Brandon Hewitt joined us from Michigan Auto Law to explain what it’s all about.  Hewitt said Social Host Liability is when social hosts – people who host a party or a gathering in their home or some place under their control – are held legally liable when their guests to whom they have served and/or provided alcohol cause injury to themselves or others.

Hewitt explained, Michigan has a social host liability law that imposes liability on social hosts when they have provided or furnished to minors – or allowed minors to consume alcohol – and those minors injure themselves or others.  

However, Michigan law does not allow social hosts to be held legally liable if their adult guests to whom they have provided alcohol cause injury or death to themselves or others.

Hewitt explained there are criminal penalties for providing alcohol to minors and he broke it down:

  • Selling or furnishing alcohol to minors is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail. (MCL 436.1701(1))
  • Allowing minors to possess or consume alcohol on your premises is also a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail. (MCL 750.141a(4)
  • However, if a minor’s consumption of the alcohol you sold or furnished is “a direct and substantial cause of the minor’s death or an accidental injury that causes the minor’s death,” then that is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. (MCL 436.1701(2))

This is not to throw a wet blanket on holiday celebrations.  It’s important to be informed and Hewitt offered some tips on how to be a safe host and protect against social host liability:

  • Hire an experienced bartender to serve drinks because he or she will have the training to spot signs of intoxication and the objectivity to “make diligent inquiry” as to whether someone is 21 years of age and, thus, old enough to drink legally
  • Arrange for one or more designated drivers to be available
  • Encourage guests to use Uber or Lyft or call a taxi
  • Stock plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and serve food
  • Determine and announce a party time ending well in advance
  • Do not serve alcohol to minors (and do not allow guests do so)
  • Circulate around your home periodically to make sure minor guests have not snuck off to secretly consume alcohol

For more information, or to contact an attorney, call 833-411-MICH or visit www.MichiganAutoLaw.com.

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