Massachusetts Social Host Law: Is the Party Over?

by Joel H. Schwartz on Apr. 02, 2013

Accident & Injury Personal Injury 

Summary: Know your obligations when you host a party that will include alcohol. It is important that you protect yourself from potential lawsuits.

Massachusetts Social Host Law: Is the Party Over?


In 2000, Massachusetts passed a social host law following the death four years prior of a Marshfield teenager who died after drinking at a private graduation party and crashing his car.


The social host law makes it possible for the host of any party to be held civilly liable for injuries suffered by others if the host knew or should have known that a guest was intoxicated, continued to serve that guest, and because of intoxication, that guest causes an injury to others.


This law extends to those who not only host parties at home, but also those who host a party at another venue.


If the intoxicated guest is under the age of 21, a host can also be held criminally liable, and Massachusetts has implemented harsh sentences and fines for parents who allow underage drinking in their homes.  It should be noted, however, that Massachusetts only extends civil liability to parents if they actually supply underage guests with alcohol.


Are You Covered?


Before you host your next party, check your insurance policy to make certain you are adequately protected for property damage and potential liability, especially if you plan to serve alcohol at your party. Under Massachusetts law, a host may be liable for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages suffered by anyone injured by an intoxicated guest.


If one of your guests has a little too much to drink, and falls on your property, you will want to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to protect yourself from any liability claims.


If you own your home, you may wish to consider adding an additional personal liability umbrella coverage to your existing homeowner's policy. An umbrella policy is designed to pay amounts in excess of the coverage under your homeowner's policy.


If damages exceed the amount of your homeowner's policy, the amount in excess of the homeowner's policy limits could be covered by the umbrella policy. Umbrella policy limits generally start at $1 million and can be as high as $20 million.


If you rent an apartment or home, don't assume that you are covered under the owner's insurance policy, which typically only covers common areas for liability and physical damage. Your personal property is not protected under those policies; nor are you protected from personal liability claims under them.


You may wish to consider purchasing renter's insurance, which protects you and your personal property from theft, damage, and personal injury lawsuits. Renter's insurance is generally less expensive than homeowner's insurance.

Make this holiday season a joyous one for you and your guests by celebrating safely!


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