By Derek Trosvig
The ice is off the lakes, warm weather is returning, and as we wake from our winter hibernation, there are more gatherings and events to plan, host and attend. Summer brings outdoor barbecues, graduation parties, family reunions, weddings and all sorts of party options. Summer means fun! Right?
But if your event is going to include alcoholic beverages, you need to be aware that you can be civilly liable as a social host for the activity of underage drinkers if you provide or furnish alcohol to a minor or knowingly or recklessly provide a premise where underage drinking occurs. In 2000, the Minnesota Legislature created a statutory cause of action in favor of persons injured by, or as a result of, the intoxication of a minor caused by a social host. This statute, known as the “Social Host Liability Act,” provides a cause of action to any person who sustains damages due to an intoxicated person under 21 years of age, and against the adult(s) who:
1) had control over the premises and, being in a reasonable position to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by the minor, knowingly or recklessly permitted that consumption and the consumption caused the intoxication of the minor; or
2) sold, bartered, furnished or gave to, or purchased for a person under the age of 21 years alcoholic beverages that caused the intoxication of that person.
The emergence of social host liability in Minnesota doesn’t mean you can’t throw parties and have fun. But if your event is going to include minors, you need to plan ahead to ensure that minors won’t have access to alcoholic beverages and won’t be consuming alcohol on your premises. Make sure that areas where alcohol is being served are well supervised. Consider having a bartender or server who can monitor who is receiving alcohol. Offer non-alcoholic beverage options for minors and guests attending your party. Pay attention to the minors attending your event. Investigate if you notice any unusual behavior. You could be liable for minors who “sneak” and consume their own alcohol to your event.
With a little planning you can still host a great party, and protect yourself from liability. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy our Minnesota summer!
Derek Trosvig is an Attorney at Law with the firm of Swenson Lervig.