Social Host Liability for Service of Alcohol

You were driving down the road when your car was struck in an accident. The other driver was a minor whose blood alcohol levels indicate they had been drinking. You later discover that they were driving home from a party where alcohol was being served to minors. Or perhaps your underage child was served alcohol at a party and was involved in a car accident as a result. Can you hold the host of that party liable for your injuries? According to the social host liability laws in Pennsylvania, the answer is yes.

Pennsylvania’s Social Host Liability

drunk driving

Unlike most laws related to liability, the social host liability laws are fairly straightforward. If someone is hosting a social gathering where a minor under the age of 21 consumes alcohol and that minor is (a) injured or killed in an accident or (b) injures or kills someone else in an accident, then the host of the social gathering may be held accountable if the host knew alcohol was being served to minors. Damages that a social host can be held liable for include medical bills related to the injuries sustained (e.g., hospital, pharmacy, rehabilitation), lost wages (and possibly the loss of future wages), property damage, and pain and suffering.

Examples of How Social Host Liability Works

underage drinking

One of the best ways to understand how social host liability works is through some examples. Suppose the teenage son of a family talks his way into being allowed to have an alcoholic drink during a party held at his parents’ house. He later leaves the party and hits your car — and you are physically hurt. His parents, the host of the social gathering where he obtained the alcohol, could be held liable for his actions. However, if he merely raids his parents’ wet bar to get a drink and then is involved in an accident that injures you, they would not be held responsible.

Frat parties are another good example of how this law works. Fraternities can be held liable for accidents and injuries related to underage drinking at their parties. So, if an underage individual leaves a frat party where they were served liquor and later hits your car, the fraternity could be held liable under the social host liability laws. If that underage individual injures only themself, social host liability laws still apply.

In an example unrelated to driving, suppose that a young person over 21 invites someone to a party who is underaged. During the course of the party, the underage individual is served alcohol and later falls on you, resulting in a broken arm. You could file a civil suit based on social host liability to recover expenses related to your injury.

Where Social Liability Host Laws Do Not Apply

Restaurant bar

There are certain instances where social host liability laws do not apply, such as social gatherings held at establishments that are licensed to sell liquor. In such cases, the establishment could potentially be held liable, but under the dram shop laws of the state rather than the social host laws.

If a company hosts a party at a local restaurant that includes a bar, the company will not be held liable if an underage employee drinks and injures someone in an accident. Rather, the establishment where the party was held would potentially be liable under the dram shop laws.


If someone is injured as a result of an underage individual being served alcohol at a social gathering, then the host of that gathering could be held legally liable for the damages and injuries that result. This same rule, however, does not apply to licensed drinking establishments but rather falls under the purview of Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws.

Sacchetta & Baldino

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of underage drinking at a social gathering, social host liability could give you another avenue of compensation. We encourage you to contact the experienced legal team at Sacchetta & Baldino to find out what your options are. We focus on personal injury lawsuits, including those related to social host liability and dram shop laws in the state of Pennsylvania. Contact us today and let our team of lawyers fight for you to receive the compensation that the law says you deserve.