Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that teens who host underage drinking parties in Massachusetts, but do not actually provide the alcohol, cannot be held civilly liable for the injuries of a partygoer.
The SJC was asked to extend the scope of the state’s social host common law to a teenager who hosted a party at which underage individuals consumed alcohol, and resulted in a partygoer sustaining serious injuries following an automobile accident caused by her then boyfriend, who also attended the party and consumed alcohol. The SJC declined to do so, however, because the teenager-host, who was sued by the injured partygoer’s family, did not actually provide the alcohol at the party. This decision reaffirms the common law standard that liability is created only when the host “either serves or exercises effective control over the supply of alcohol.”
It must be noted that this decision clarifies the civil liability associated with social host cases, and does not affect the state’s existing criminal laws and penalties concerning the furnishing of alcohol to minors.