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What North Carolina needs to know about social host liability

In January we posted about North Carolina's social host liability laws. Most people aren't aware of social host laws, but what you don't know can hurt you. Under North Carolina law, if you host a party where alcohol is served, you may be held responsible for a drunk-driving incident involving one of your guests.

We are one of 37 states with some form of social host liability laws. Many states have laws which extend to bars and restaurants as well as individuals. A recent example of this comes from a bar in Philadelphia which was held partially liable for a DUI car accident that killed three people.

The incident involved a bartender who continued to serve alcohol to a woman who was clearly intoxicated. When the woman's behavior became rowdy, a bouncer escorted her out of the bar. However, instead of calling a cab the bouncer took the woman to her own car.

The intoxicated woman was later involved in a car accident that killed her and two other people.

The company that owns the bar was charged with serving a visibly intoxicated person. It was also charged with reckless endangerment because it failed to properly train its employees on proper procedures. The company's president pled guilty to all charges and the bar was ordered to pay $12,500 in fines and restitutions.

Depending on the situation, individuals and businesses who serve alcohol to guests can be held responsible for the consequences of their guest's actions. This can include civil charges as well as criminal. North Carolina residents need to know that social host responsibility includes getting all guests home safely.

Source: Reuters news, "Bar Criminally Liable for Patron's DUI Crash," Stephanie Rabiner, 21 April 2011

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