Social Host Liability in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

drunk man

In every state, there are laws that govern the responsibility of individuals who serve alcohol to persons who subsequently cause injury to others. When the server is a bar, tavern, restaurant or employee thereof, the legal basis for a lawsuit is generally referred to as dram shop liability. However, when the person serving the intoxicating beverages is a private individual, at a party, dinner or other private event, the term used to describe legal responsibility is “social host liability.”

Social Host Liability in Pennsylvania

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania has a fairly restricted application of social host liability. A private individual will only be legally responsible under a theory of social host liability in Pennsylvania if the person served was a minor. It has long been the rule in Pennsylvania that social hosts have no legal liability for the actions of adults to whom they have served beer, wine or liquor.

Social Host Liability in New Jersey

In New Jersey, social hosts may have liability for the wrongful acts of persons to whom they served alcoholic beverages. The New Jersey statute requires that the person to whom alcoholic beverages was served was “visibly intoxicated.” The law also restricts application to injuries caused by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. Judicial opinions in New Jersey have extended liability to situations where guest self-served, as well as to beverages brought by other guests.

Contact Fritz & Bianculli LLC

At the law firm of Fritz & Bianculli LLC, we have over 30 years of collective experience successfully protecting the rights of personal injury victims in the greater Philadelphia area. We have recovered millions in settlements and verdicts in cases that other law firms initially turned down.

To set up a free initial consultation, call our office at 215-458-2222 or send us an e-mail. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged, if necessary. We will come to your home or the hospital for an appointment.

Dram Shop Liability – An Overview

Back of a barIn a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, researchers found that alcohol is a factor in about four out of every ten fatal accidents in the United States. Though the focus is often on the persons who drive while under the influence of alcohol, there are also laws, known as “dram shop” statutes, that can make bars, taverns, liquor stores and other establishments responsible when they serve people who subsequently cause accidents.

Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws originated in Victorian England, where the term “dram” was a measurement of alcohol sold. Dram shop laws have been widely applied, used against not only nightclubs and bars, but against sports venues, concert halls and other venues with a license to dispense alcohol. The dram shop laws were enacted to provide a disincentive for such establishments to serve alcohol to patrons who are either visibly drunk, or to serve alcohol in such quantities that would cause a person to become intoxicated.

Under the law, a bar, tavern, restaurant of similar place of business always has the right to refuse to serve alcohol to anyone. If the bar chooses, however, to sell or provide alcohol to a patron, reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that the patron is not already intoxicated, or that the amount of alcohol consumed by the patron would not cause that person to become intoxicated. If it can be shown that the bar knew or should have known that the customer was drunk, or that the customer had imbibed to a degree that would cause intoxication, the bar can be financially responsible for any injuries that person causes.

Contact Fritz, Goldenberg & Bianculli

If you, a family member or friend have been injured by someone who was drunk, contact Fritz, Goldenberg & Bianculli.

To set up a free initial consultation, call our office at (215) 458-2222 or send us an e-mail. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged, if necessary. We will come to your home or the hospital for an appointment.

Liquor Liability

We provide comprehensive counsel to anyone who has suffered injury in an accident involving a drunk or intoxicated person. Our lawyers will fully investigate your case, carefully gathering and assessing all critical evidence. We will prepare and file all pleadings and other documents in a timely manner, and will be a strong voice for you in all hearings or proceedings, from deposition to settlement meetings to trial.

We handle all types of claims involving liability for serving or selling alcohol, including cases where:

  • A bartender, mixologist, waiter, waitress or other employee of a bar, tavern or restaurant serves alcohol to a person who is either underage, visibly intoxicated or engages in behavior that a reasonable person would interpret as being inebriated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Any employee of a bar, tavern or restaurant serves a quantity of alcohol to a person that would reasonably cause that person to become intoxicated
  • Any employee of a liquor store, package store or other vendor sells packaged alcohol to a  person who is underage, visibly drunk or whose behavior indicates that he or she is drunk
  • A  party host serves alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated, or allows a guest to consume a substantial amount of alcohol