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Social Host Liability in New Hampshire

October 7, 2020

Hosting social gatherings nowadays may look a bit different than they did before COVID-19 began. Some things, however, remain the same at these events, even with social distancing requirements. Alcohol being present at a gathering, for example, is still common. However, hosts may have a greater responsibility than they expect or are aware of when serving adult refreshments at a party. Following a social gathering, if a host’s guest leaves the event intoxicated and gets into an accident, it may give rise to liability on the part of the host.

In a recent state opinion, a deceased accident victim’s parents filed a wrongful death action on behalf of their son who, after leaving a social gathering, got into a fatal car accident. On the night in question, an underage friend of the deceased allowed him and a couple of other friends to consume alcoholic beverages in his home. The victim and another friend were intoxicated when they left the gathering, and on the way home, the deceased’s friend lost control of his vehicle and crashed. The plaintiff died on the scene. His friend’s blood alcohol concentration was twice the legally permitted amount.

The victim’s parents filed a complaint against their son’s friend who was operating the car, who, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against the host of the social gathering. The trial court ruled in favor of the host, holding that he did not have a duty to supervise his friends.

On appeal, the court reversed and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. An underage adult defendant, the court reasoned, may be held civilly liable to a third-party victim if he facilitated alcohol consumption and allowed underage drinking to take place. Even if the defendant was not the property owner, the court argued, if it was foreseeable that a visibly intoxicated guest would leave to operate a motor vehicle, the host could be held liable.

In New Hampshire, similar social host liability laws exist. When a group gathers for an event or party at someone’s home, social hosts have a duty to keep track of and monitor how much alcohol their guests are drinking. Hosts also must ensure that the individuals consuming alcohol are old enough to drink under New Hampshire law.

If someone is injured related to a host’s decision to serve a guest alcohol, the injured party may have a claim if they can prove that the host recklessly served alcohol to their guests. New Hampshire courts also allow third parties to pursue claims against a social host when they are injured due to a guest’s alcohol consumption.

Contact a New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured after a social event involving alcohol, contact Peter Thompson & Associates. The attorneys at our firm have worked with all kinds of personal injury clients, including Maine drunk driving accidents, and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation today, call our office at 800-804-2004.