Throwing a graduation party? Know your legal liability as a social host before serving alcohol

Media contact: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications, 248.260.8466; barbara@eafocus.com

Southfield, Mich. —May 11, 2017—As graduations, weddings, reunions and other milestones are celebrated this time of year, A. Vince Colella, a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C., reminds adults who are planning to host parties that the State of Michigan has a Social Host Liability Law which holds them responsible if underage drinking occurs, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol.

“Many well-intentioned parents do not realize that they can be held criminally liable if minors are served alcohol. They could also face damages from a civil lawsuit if an underage guest is served alcohol and subsequently becomes injured or injures someone else,” Colella said. “Importantly, the setting of the party does not have to be at the host’s home; it can be offsite at a meeting hall or even a park.”

According to MCL436.1701:

  1. Alcoholic liquor shall not be sold or furnished to a minor
  2. A person who is not a retail licensee and charged with the violation will face a misdemeanor of up to a $1,000 fine and imprisonment of not more than 60 days for a first offense; subsequent offenses have penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and up to 90 days in prison, in addition to a possible order to perform community service and potential loss of a driver’s license.

“Michigan’s law is not intended to quash the fun, but instead designed to keep minors safe and ensure that all guests have the opportunity to enjoy the celebration unharmed,” Colella said.  “It reminds hosts to be conscious of their responsibilities and aware of what is happening at their get-togethers.”

Colella offers some advice on how to help deter underage drinking at these social gatherings:

  • Hire a professional bartender who can control the flow of alcohol and monitor for underage drinkers.
  • Make it known that once minors leave the party, they are not allowed back to dissuade underage drinking at another location and returning potentially inebriated.
  • For those of legal drinking age, make sure certain guests have been named designated drivers ahead of time.
  • If no designated drivers are available, consider rideshare services.

For more information about this law, visit the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) http://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/Home.html, which provides detailed state-by-state information on 35 alcohol-related policies and the recreational use of cannabis.

About Moss & Colella

Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death.   The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims.   To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.

###