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What Is the Alabama Homeowner’s Responsibility When Serving Alcohol?

Posted on April 19, 2018

Many Alabama party hosts don’t realize they could face serious legal trouble for serving alcohol to the wrong guests. Dram shop laws and social host liability in Alabama don’t let alcohol servers and social hosts get away with intoxicating a person who later causes injury or death to another. It might seem unfair to suffer the consequences for someone else’s actions, but under Alabama law this is exactly what could happen to social hosts. Learn your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner in Alabama before throwing your next party to stay out of trouble.

Alabama Social Host and Dram Shop Laws

“Dram shop laws” refer to third-party liability for the actions and behaviors of an intoxicated individual. Dram shop laws serve to reduce the risk of alcohol-related accidents such as car crashes and acts of violence by encouraging those who serve alcohol not to continue serving patrons or guests who are already visibly intoxicated. Victims of an alcohol-related accident may be able to name not only the intoxicated person but the party that contributed to his/her intoxication as defendants in a personal injury claim under Alabama’s dram shop laws. This includes social hosts.

Social host liability laws in Alabama (Section 6-5-71) give injured parties and their loved ones the right to take legal action against any person who “sells, gives, or otherwise disposes of” alcohol to another person contrary to state laws, if this contributes to the intoxication of the person who caused the damages. In Alabama, it is against the law for social hosts to furnish a guest with alcohol if the guest appears to be intoxicated “considering the totality of the circumstances.” While this law is somewhat open to interpretation, it may give victims the right to file a claim against a homeowner in certain situations.

Social hosts in Alabama cannot serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated guests despite being exempt from the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board rules. It is also against the law for social hosts to give alcohol to underage drinkers (those under the age of 21). Breaking this law could expose the homeowner to liability if the intoxicated minor proceeds to cause a car accident or other harm to someone else. It’s important to note that while an accident victim could pursue damages from a social host, the intoxicated individual does not have the right to bring a claim against the homeowner for his or her imbibement.

How to Obey the Law as a Homeowner and Social Host

Alcohol-related accidents are sadly quite common in Alabama. Drunk driving car crashes alone took 3,190 lives in Alabama over a 10-year period. It’s your responsibility as a homeowner to do your part to prevent injuries to others when serving alcohol. The more seriously you take these responsibilities, the lower the risk of intoxicated individuals wreaking havoc in your hometown. The following tips can help social hosts obey the law, prevent accidents, and avoid liability:

  • Never serve to or purchase alcohol for a minor under the age of 21
  • Check IDs to verify age before serving guests
  • Do not let minors use your property for parties
  • Stop serving alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated
  • Serve non-alcoholic beverage alternatives
  • When in doubt about someone’s intoxication, stop serving him or her
  • Refuse to serve someone you know plans on driving
  • Hide the keys of an intoxicated guest who wants to drive home
  • Offer to let intoxicated guests spend the night, or call them a cab or Uber
  • Keep your home and premises reasonably safe for visitors to prevent accidents

Breaking Alabama’s dram shop and social host laws could end in a lawsuit against you for accident damages. Letting minors consume alcohol on your property or failing to reasonably prevent the illegal consumption of alcohol at your home, however, could also result in criminal penalties. Violating the state’s Open House Party Law is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of $2,000. Play it safe at your next house party – be careful who you furnish with alcohol.

Speak with our Birmingham personal injury lawyers today.