Social parties involving alcohol have become as ingrained in our holiday culture as exchanging gifts, overeating and Uncle Larry’s ugly sweaters.
Often, questions arise regarding the extent to which a holiday party host who provides alcohol – either at a company work party or a private social gathering – can be held liable for the actions of a party guest who overdoes it and ends up causing injury to a third party.
The most common example is the party guest who drives drunk after the party and injures another person.
Wisconsin Statutes § 125.035(2) generally grants a party host immunity from civil liability when a guest who consumes alcohol causes harm to a third party.
The law defines “person” broadly to include corporations, partnerships, and associations.
However, § 125.035(2) does not apply to minors. If you know, or should have known, that a person to whom you provided alcohol at a party was a minor, and that minor causes harm to a third person, you could be held liable.
The law allows a minor who is directly supervised by a parent to consume alcohol.
However, “supervision” requires more than the parent simply being present at the party where the minor is drinking.
It will typically require the parent to monitor and control what and how much the minor is drinking.
The surest way to avoid potential civil liability is by taking steps to ensure that minors are not consuming alcohol at all. A party host should never allow underage persons who are not directly supervised by a parent to consume alcohol.
The best way to protect against potential liability is to exercise common sense and good judgment.
This is a far better approach than having to deal with Wisconsin laws after something bad happens.
Contact your FOS attorney for more information to help protect you and yours against potential civil liability this holiday season.