As the holiday season gets into full swing, it’s time to bring up everyone’s favorite festive subject once again: host liquor liability.
Host liquor liability is a section of the law that holds the party hosts liable for crimes committed on their property. In many cases, it’s used to hold adults responsible if they knowingly provide minors with alcohol on their property. However, it’s also used to target businesses that serve alcohol to guests who then go on to violate the law (usually through drinking and driving).
Are you about to host a holiday party on your premises? Here’s what you need to know about host liquor liability laws in Texas.
What Are the Host Liquor Liability Laws in Texas?
Liquor liability in Texas is better known as the state’s Dram Shop statute.
Texas passed the first Dram Shop bill in 1987. The law isn’t a criminal one, but it does allow for victims to bring civil suits against ‘hosts’ serving alcohol to people who are obviously intoxicated.
Initially, the state legislature included “social hosts” on the bill. In other words, if someone had left your July 4th backyard barbecue after drinking too much, then you could have been liable even as a private citizen having a party for friends.
Generally speaking, social hosts are bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. For example, if a bartender keeps serving a patron until they are visibly intoxicated (and then after) and the patron then gets in their car and injures someone, the injured person can sue not only the driver but the bar that served them for damages.
However, in 2005, Texas passed a new type of social host regulation through the Alcoholic Beverage Code. It impacts those who:
- Knowingly serve alcohol to unrelated minors
- Knowingly serve alcohol to someone so intoxicated it is clear they are a danger to themselves and others
These laws apply when the serving of liquor to those above causes damages to a third party. A conviction under the Alcoholic Beverage Code is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
What Happens if Someone Makes a Social Host Claim Against You?
Bars and restaurants have liability insurance for situations like these, but what happens if you get caught up in the law at an office party or even in your home?
To reiterate, you aren’t responsible for the injuries of the intoxicated person. They can’t sue you because they wandered off with a bottle of whiskey at a holiday party. However, if they hurt someone else, then the third party can sue you.
If you are the homeowner, then you will rely on your homeowner’s insurance to pay the claim. Many homeowner’s insurance policies include liquor liability coverage if you live in Texas or one of the other 42 states with these laws.
If you run a business, then your general liability insurance may also cover it.
How to Avoid the Consequences of Social Host Claims
It’s easy to say that the key to avoiding this situation is to be a responsible party host. But even if you limit your intake to one drink and avoid pressuring others to drink, you can’t always stop people on a mission to get drunk at your event.
Before you host a party, be sure to read up on Texas state law to see where your event falls under the law. You should also check with your homeowner’s insurance policy or business liability policy to see whether you have coverage for social host and Alcohol Beverage Code claims. If you don’t have coverage, you have two options to protect yourself:
- Call your independent insurance agent and ask about policy extensions
- Move your party to a covered venue (bar or restaurant)
Although you may think you’re not vulnerable to these claims, you can’t always predict the behavior of other people.
Other Ways to Be a Responsible Party Host
Are you hosting a party at your home and aware of your coverage?
Even with proper liability insurance, you should still be a responsible party host to keep people safe while having a good time.
One of the best things anyone can do, no matter their budget, includes a designated driver policy. Ask people who aren’t drinking whether they can drive people home or ask people to refrain from driving on your invites. Make use of services like Uber and Lyft where you can, and encourage a general air of personal responsibility to avoid awkward conversations at the end of the night.
Another good idea is to hire a professional bartender. Bartenders know the signs of intoxication well because of their responsibilities under the Alcoholic Beverage Code when working in a bar. They can manage your alcohol supply, and they’ll have more authority when cutting people off, which can also save you from some uncomfortable conversations.
You should also consider serving food and non-alcoholic drinks. You might even switch out the alcohol for soft drinks, water, coffee, and tea an hour or so before the party is over to give people time to metabolize the liquor they’ve already have.
Be a Responsible Party Host – It’s the Law
As holiday party season gets into full swing and the bottles of champagne come out of their cases, it’s important to remember that host liquor liability is a serious issue. That means not serving alcohol to minors and cutting people off when they have had too much to drink.
If you don’t, then you leave yourself or your business open to civil liability lawsuits and even a Class A misdemeanor.
Is your party covered under your homeowner’s or business policy? Make sure you check before you send out your holiday party invites. If you’re not sure what kind of coverage you need, get in touch to learn more about how to protect yourself and your guests this season.