Social Host Liability in Arizona

One of the many problems facing todays world is the problem of drunk driving. Drunk driving injures and kills thousands of people and affects the lives of countless others. One of the unique areas of law that deals with drunk driving is the concept of Social Host Liability. Social Host Liability is a concept that seeks to hold the person who provided the alcohol to the drunk driver responsible for the injuries caused by the drunk driver. This article will describe the basics about Social Host Liability and talk specifically about the law in the State of Arizona.

What is a Social Host?

The first question to consider is who is a social host. A social host is the person who holds a gathering of any kind, from a two-person dinner to a large company party, Christmas Party, or wedding. A social host can be an individual, such as who or I who hold a party at or home, or a corporation, or a group (such as a social organization). The size of the event is irrelevant; it can be a single guest to thousands of attendees. The location of the party is also irrelevant.

When is a Social Host Liable?

Under general legal principles a social host is liable for injuries, both physical and financial, suffered as a result of a drunk guest who causes injury to a third person when all of the following requirements are met:

  • The social host served alcohol to the person who caused the personal injury or property damage in question;
  • The social host knew, or should have known, that the person who caused the personal injury or property damage was intoxicated; and
  • The social host knew that the person who caused the personal injury or property damage would be driving after the social occasion.

All of these requirements must be meet for liability to arise under the Social Host Liability principles. The social host is not automatically liable if their guest injures someone or something while intoxicated. It is only if all of the above requirements are met that the social host is liable.

How is Arizona law Different?

Arizona does not follow the same concepts of Social Host Liability as other parts of the country. In fact Arizona has adopted a specific statute which limits a social hosts liability. Under Arizona law a social host is not liable for injuries suffered as a result of someone who attended a party and injured someone while intoxicated. There are two exceptions to this general rule. First, if the social host is licensed to sell or provide alcoholic beverages that person can be held responsible. And second, if the intoxicated person is under the legal drinking age than the social host can be held responsible.

How Can a Social Host Avoid Liability?

While Arizona has eliminated Social Host Liability in most cases, it always better to be safe than sorry so here are some tips to avoid social host liability in Arizona or other parts of the country. The safest way of avoiding liquor liability as a social host is to not serve alcohol at your social events. If you decide to provide alcohol at your event here are a few ideas to try and reduce or potential exposure:

  • Have a designated driver program for your function and encourage people to be designated drivers – provide non-alcoholic drinks for these guests and make sure they have the car keys.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol at your event and limit the amount of alcohol per attendee
  • Hire bartenders to monitor the serving of alcohol. While this does not release you from liability, it may provide additional protection to reduce your potential exposure.
  • Insure your homeowner’s or business insurance covers liquor liability. If it does not you may be able to purchase single-event insurance for a large event.

If you have any specific questions about Social Host Liability contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your area.

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