NOTE: SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY FOR GUESTS WHO DRINK AND DRIVE: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BENEFITS AND THE BURDENS Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1986 College of William & Mary.
William & Mary Law Review

NOTE: SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY FOR GUESTS WHO DRINK AND DRIVE: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BENEFITS AND THE BURDENS

Spring, 1986

27 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 583

Author

DERRY D. SPARLIN, JR.

Excerpt

In recent years, citizens have placed increasing pressure on courts and legislatures to eliminate drunk driving. 1 While almost every state legislature has responded by strengthening criminal sanctions, 2 many state courts have reacted by expanding the scope of civil liability for accidents caused by drunken driving. 3 In addition to holding the intoxicated drivers liable, 4 courts in many jurisdictions have imposed civil liability on the tavern owners and bartenders who served liquor to these drivers when the danger of serving drinks was reasonably foreseeable. 5 Although these owners and bartenders were not liable under common law, many recent decisions have abrogated the common law rule of nonliability. The common law doctrine now has become the minority rule. 6

Recently, victims of alcohol-related accidents have argued that courts also should extend this doctrine of liability to social hosts who serve liquor gratuitously to guests who subsequently drive while intoxicated. The courts, however, have been reluctant to accept this argument. 7 Courts in only nine jurisdictions have recognized social host liability. 8 The effect of these decisions is tempered somewhat by language in many of the opinions that restricts liability to limited circumstances involving particularly wrongful conduct. 9 State legislatures in three of these nine jurisdictions effectively have overturned the decisions that imposed liability by modifying their statutes either to eliminate liability or to limit liability to specific situations, 10 leaving only six jurisdictions that currently impose liability.

Despite the negative response of state ...
 
 
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