Social host liability
Social host liability is created by a statute or case law that imposes liability on social hosts as a result of their serving alcohol to adults or minors. Persons subject to social-host liability in criminal and civil actions are frequently those that provided alcohol to the obviously intoxicated or to minors who subsequently are involved in vehicle crashes or other activities causing death or injury to third parties, but these are not necessary conditions. A social host is most often a private individual who serves alcohol in a non-commercial setting.
The related body of United States law governing the liability of taverns, liquor stores, and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages is known as dramshop liability. Social-host liability can vary greatly from state to state, a problem increased by the often heavy reliance on case precedent rather than the text of the statute. Avoiding liability totally can only be achieved by not serving any alcohol.
Most people are aware that serving alcohol to minors is almost always illegal. They may not be aware that they may be held liable if the alcohol provided is found to "contribute" to the commission of, for example, a sex crime. In some states, such as New Hampshire, a minor who serves other minors may be liable. If the underage drinking took place in a home, the parents may be held liable even if they were not present and did not provide the alcohol. If the parents had "probable cause" to know an underage party would occur while they were away, they can be held liable for the party-goers' actions on and off their property.
In many cases there exist several classes of, and persons subject to, liability. States vary in their rules regarding joint and several liability.
In Canada, one of the most notable cases involving social-host liability is Childs v. Desormeaux.