Social Host Liability in Massachusetts

All of the responsible parties may not be obvious. We can help.

Social Host Liability Litigation Attorney

Under the legal theory known as “social host liability”, the host of a social gathering in Massachusetts (usually at a home or other private setting) may be liable to a third-party for for injuries caused by a guest who was served alcohol at the gathering and later causes an accident or inflicts some other injury.

It is devastating enough that you or a loved one were injured by a drunk driver, but then you learn that the driver was over-served at a family party and the host just let him drive away.   

Pursuing a social host liability claim is stressful and can be complicated.  You may be dealing with serious injuries, medical expenses and lost time from work.  Where do you begin to protect your interests?

Below, you will find some basic information about social host liability and we hope it helps!  Please note that every case is unique and you should speak to an attorney before coming to any conclusions.

Our attorneys at Equitas Law have represented parties to social host liability actions for more than 20 years.  We can help you through the process and maximize your recovery at every stage of the action.

Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law

A social host is liable to a third-person injured by an intoxicated guest’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle where the social host knew or should have known that his guest was drunk and nevertheless continued to serve him alcohol.

However, a duty on the part of a social host to prevent a guest from becoming drunk and then driving is only imposed in cases where the host can control and therefore regulate the supply of liquor.  For example, there is no legal duty on the part of the host when the liquor is brought by and belongs to the guest, and that guest regulated their own consumption.  This applies equally to situations where an underage host does not supply alcohol to underage guests, but only provides a place for alcohol to be consumed. 

It is also well-established that a social host has no duty to an adult guest who becomes intoxicated and injures himself, even if the adult is an underage drinker.  This is consistent with the Massachusetts view that social host liability can only be imposed where the host exercises control over the alcohol supply by providing the alcohol or otherwise making it available.  

Free Consultation on any Massachusetts Social Host Case

If you would like to speak about your case and get an expert opinion, please call or text us at any time at 617-723-4163, email at inquiry@equitas.law or use our contact form, above.  We will listen to the facts of your case, address your concerns and let you know what your options are.

The initial consultation is free and there is no pressure to hire.  If you choose to hire us, we will give you a reasonable fee agreement, including possible contingency fee options.

Civil Litigation FAQ

We Hope This Helps!

The Statute of Limitations sets the time period – from a particular act – within which a legal action must be initiated. If you are a criminal or civil defendant, the SOL can serve to end the case (and eliminate your problem) at its infancy.

If you are looking to bring criminal charges against someone or to sue for civil damages, the SOL may prevent you from doing so if you wait too long.

Generally speaking, most state criminal charges have a SOL of 6 years (murder and certain types of sexual assault have no SOL, while some violent crimes have a SOL of 10 years).

Civil SOL vary too widely to set forth here, but the most commonly utilized are 3 years for personal injury actions, 4 years for consumer protection actions and 6 years for breach of contract.

To complicate matters further, the SOL can be “tolled”, or put on pause, for certain periods of time, such as when a criminal defendant flees the jurisdiction or a civil plaintiff has not yet discovered the harmful event.

As with most areas of the law, the Statute of Limitations is not as simple as it seems and it is important to consult with an attorney to determine how this issue may affect your case.

A tort is simply a term that describes an act or omission that causes injury or harm to another and may allow the court to impose civil liability.

Generally, torts fall into three categories: intentional torts (e.g., assault and battery); negligence (e.g., causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., making and selling defective products or dog bites).

Generally, the defendant must serve an answer to a Complaint within twenty (20) days after service of the summons and Complaint. Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).

An answer to a Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint must be served within twenty days as well.

How you answer a complaint will have an effect on the entire case, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney!

In responding to any pleading (most often an Answer to a Complaint), the answer must raise the following affirmative defenses or they will be waived:

  • accord and satisfaction;
  • arbitration and award;
  • assumption of risk;
  • contributory negligence;
  • discharge in bankruptcy;
  • duress;
  • estoppel;
  • failure of consideration;
  • fraud;
  • illegality;
  • injury by fellow servant;
  • laches;
  • license;
  • payment;
  • release;
  • res judicata;
  • statute of frauds;
  • statute of limitations;
  • waiver; and
  • any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

Mass. R. Civ. P. 8(c).  It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial stage of the case and mistakes here will cost you.  Call an attorney.

Don't ignore it!

If no responsive pleading is timely filed to a Complaint, Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint, a default may be requested pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default Judgment may be obtained by filing appropriate Affidavits with the Clerk of Court if the amount sought is for a sum certain. Otherwise, judgment may be obtained following a hearing to determine damages.  Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

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1583 Beacon Street • Brookline • MA 02446

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