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Social Host Liability for Serving Alcohol to Minors in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, if a homeowner hosts a party, and a guest drinks too much and injures a third-party (think drinking and driving), the homeowner is often not liable for those injuries. Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania an adult social host can over-serve adult guests without fear of being found at fault in a lawsuit if a guest hurts someone else. It is important to understand this limitation does not protect a business that sells or serves alcohol, or the person who causes injury, whether by accident or criminal act. It also does not protect homeowners in certain situations involving underage drinking. Under Pennsylvania law, an adult social host can be found liable if they serve alcohol to the point of intoxication to someone under twenty-one, and the underage person injures someone because they are drunk. Often, this includes injuries sustained in drunk driving accidents, but also includes injuries to a third party resulting from sexual assault and other crimes committed by an intoxicated underage guest. So what happens to a parent if a member of the household, like a teenage son or daughter, throws a party, and the parents don't actually "serve" alcohol? Pennsylvania has adopted a rule that requires adult socials hosts to have "knowingly furnished" alcohol to their guests for them to be liable. It is reassuring to know that victims of injuries caused by intoxicated underage drinkers may have legal recourse. Parents should be warned that if they permit their teenager to throw a party, and alcohol is served, they might be responsible if someone is injured.

The "knowingly furnished" standard means an adult social host cannot escape liability simply because he or she refrained from physically handing alcohol to their minor guests. As it turns out, the phrase "knowingly furnished" is a bit deceptive. Pennsylvania courts interpret the phrase broadly, and an adult social host can be held liable if they participated in planning the party or substantially aided the minors' drinking. Furthermore, parents may be liable based upon their duty to reasonably supervise minors if the circumstances surrounding the social gathering justify they do so.

If an intoxicated minor drank at an adult's home, and injured you or your child or committed sexual assault or some other crime, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced crime victim and sexual abuse attorney. The sooner you consult with a lawyer, the better the chance your rights will be protected.

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