Dear Timberlake & League
Next month I am hosting a 30th wedding anniversary dinner for my parents at my home. I expect 20-30 guests. There will be music, catered food, and of course the cocktails will flow before, during, and after dinner. Even though everyone invited is over the age of 21, I will be horrified if I have to be the host who limits everyone to a two-drink minimum. However, I am worried that someone might overindulge and drink too much before driving home.
Can I be held responsible for the actions of a guest who departs the dinner after possibly having too much to drink?
Congratulations to your parents on 30 years of marriage. You asked a great question as laws and codes can vary from state to state. We will focus on Alabama law regarding host responsibilities.
Are you responsible for the guests at your party?
You mentioned everyone will be over the age of 21 but we know even the best-laid plans can change. Alabama Code Section 28-1-5 states that no one under the age of 21 can legally possess or consume alcohol under any circumstances, even in a private residence or with parental consent. Additionally, the Alabama Civil Damages Act holds hosts liable if alcohol is provided to anyone under 21 years old and that person is injured, or injures another, while intoxicated. Parents, children, and others injured by the intoxicated individual can also pursue claims against the homeowner.
Now that we’ve covered your responsibility to guests under 21, let’s get to your specific question. In Alabama, you are not liable for the actions of your intoxicated guests whether they are or are not visibly intoxicated. The caveat, however, is that you can be liable if you lend something like your car or a firearm to an intoxicated guest. So while you are not liable if someone becomes intoxicated in your home, you could be if you loan an intoxicated guest a car or firearm and someone is injured as a result.
We hope that all of your party guests leave the party responsibly and safely. But if you have questions because of a specific occurrence or find that you need our help, we’d like for you to schedule a consultation. Our firm has the knowledge and experience to offer quality legal assistance if an issue arises.