What is the Social Host Liability for Underage Drinkers?

Social host liability - hosts held responsible for underage drinkers

Football season is just around the corner. Are you planning on hosting a party to cheer on your favorite college or NFL team? If there will be alcoholic beverages consumed, make no mistake, you as a host/hostess can be held liable for underage drinkers consuming alcohol under your “watch”. Know the law and protect yourself and others.

Children Can Legally Drink with Parents

In the state of Ohio, parents are provided a certain amount of control over whether or not their child is allowed to drink an alcoholic beverage. However, be careful. Under Ohio Revised Code Title XLIII. Liquor § 4301.69 (B) this only applies to your child when they are in your immediate presence:

  • Parent/spouse/legal guardian can order alcohol for a child under the age of 21 in a restaurant, but must remain present while the child consumes the drink
  • Parent/spouse/legal guardian can allow their child to drink alcohol at home or in another private residence while the adult is present

Businesses do have control over the consumption of alcoholic beverages if the intended consumer is an underaged child by:

  • The right to refuse sale of alcoholic beverages to the parent/spouse/guardian if they determine the intended consumer is someone under the age of 21
  • The right to limit the hours of business for underage consumers, minimizing the likelihood of underage drinking under parental supervision

At no time can an underage child be granted permission to drink alcoholic beverages by a parent/spouse/legal guardian by written or oral permission to another legally aged adult.

Adults Held Responsible for Underage Drinkers

Whether or not an adult consents to underage drinking, the only underage drinker an adult has control over is someone they are legally responsible for in the eyes of the law. The exception is when someone is injured or fatally wounded by a minor while intoxicated. This is where “social host” liability comes into play.

In order to address underage drinking and drunk driving, the state of Ohio has enacted stricter laws for alcohol-related negligence by holding legally aged adults responsible. These adults, or “social hosts” can be business owners or individuals in a private residence where alcohol has been served in a social setting to minors. If the “social host” served or was present when the minor was served alcohol, that adult can be held responsible by a third party.

Be a Responsible Host

In a recent survey, 29% of teens indicated that they know of parents who host teen alcohol parties. How can you protect yourself from social host liability? Make sure you are in charge of your child, and your child only.

If you are the host, practice responsible supervision when alcohol is being served to guests by:

  • Keeping track of who is invited/present at your business or home — just because you did not know they were there does not excuse you from responsibility for their actions
  • When there are minors at your business or home, make sure they are not consuming alcohol unless a parent/legal guardian is present and has granted permission to consume alcohol
  • NEVER accept verbal or written permission for the consumption of alcohol by a minor, this will not protect you from social host liability

Be smart and be aware of who is drinking in your business or home. When in doubt, send guests home safely, for their benefit and yours!

Timothy Dimoff – Speaker, National Expert and Author

Tim Dimoff’s engaging and thought-provoking presentations are sure to enlighten, inform and move you into taking action on such critical issues as workplace risks, substance abuse, security and societal threats. Feel free to contact Tim today to speak at your organization.

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