Special Feature

Hosting a Party? Be Aware of Your State’s Social Host Liability Statutes

Close up of three full wine glasses

Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and the Fourth of July are good days to keep social host liability in mind. Social host liability refers to the liability of an individual who provides alcohol to someone without selling it to them. For instance, if you’re hosting a party at your house and a guest becomes intoxicated and gets into an accident as a result of their intoxication, a person injured in this accident may try to assert a claim against you, the furnisher of the alcohol.

Each state handles these claims differently. For example:

  • Alaska recognizes social host liability for furnishing alcohol to a minor, and civil liability may be based upon the criminal violation.

  • In Minnesota, claims against you for supplying alcohol would be rejected, as the creation of a civil cause of action requires the sale of alcohol. However, the legislature has created an important exception to this rule. A social host can be held liable if they are over the age of 21, had control over the premises where the alcohol was consumed, and knowingly or recklessly permitted the consumption of alcohol by someone under the age of 21. A social host can also be held responsible if they sold, bartered, furnished, gave, or purchased alcohol for a person under the age of 21.

  • In Wisconsin, a social host can be held liable if they provided alcohol without attempting to ascertain whether the minors were of age.

  • South Dakota recognizes social host liability when alcohol was furnished to an underage drinker.

  • Illinois criminalizes social host liability, but does not create civil liability.

  • Iowa does not recognize social host liability, but criminalizes providing alcohol to children 17 years old or younger.

  • North Dakota recognizes social host liability.

Statutes can change over time, so please refer to your state’s statutes for full up-to-date details.

It is important to be aware that your insurance does not cover social host exposure. Your Homeowner and Personal Umbrella policies both exclude social host liability coverage.

Enjoy your holiday and celebrate responsibly. Do not provide alcohol to your children or your children’s underage friends or allow them to drink on your property. Such actions could result in an unfortunate or tragic accident, in addition to criminal penalties and/or civil liability not covered by your insurance.