Serving Alcohol

Can A Host Who Serves Alcohol Be Liable For A Car Accident?

One of the most common causes of car accidents is drunk driving. In 2016 alone, nearly half a million drivers admitted to driving while intoxicated, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). If you were involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, it’s important to know from whom you can recover damages. Most of the time, an intoxicated driver is liable. However, in certain instances, liability may also attach to persons furnishing alcohol to a driver.

If you have questions or want to discuss a case involving a drunk driving car accident, feel free to call us at (916) 270-6880. We can help you understand who may be liable for your injuries beyond the other intoxicated driver. A consultation with a car accident attorney can also alleviate your concerns regarding your case and help you make an informed decision on how to move forward.

General Rule: No Civil Liability

As a general rule, persons who furnish alcohol cannot be made liable even if the recipient becomes intoxicated, drives, and causes an auto accident. Statutory immunity is granted under the law for persons who furnish alcohol, as the law considers the act of consuming alcohol and not provision of alcohol as the proximate cause of death or injury.  

This immunity extends to persons who furnish alcohol commercially, as in a business that sells alcohol, and to persons who provide alcohol in a social setting, such as at a party.

Obviously Intoxicated Minor

However, like many statutes, there are exceptions.  The statutory exception to the general rule is found in Business and Professions Code Section 25602.1.

“a cause of action may be brought by or on behalf of any person who has suffered injury or death against any person licensed, or required to be licensed, pursuant to Section 23300, or any person authorized by the federal government to sell alcoholic beverages on a military base or other federal enclave, who sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away any alcoholic beverage, and any other person who sells, or causes to be sold, any alcoholic beverage, to any obviously intoxicated minor where the furnishing, sale or giving of that beverage to the minor is the proximate cause of the personal injury or death sustained by that person.”

To simplify, the statutory exception to the rule is that a seller may be made liable if they sell alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor who later becomes involved in an accident. The exception to the rule requires that the minor be ‘obviously’ intoxicated at the time of the purchase. Thus, there is no liability on the part of a seller if the minor is not obviously intoxicated at the time of purchasing the alcoholic beverage.

House Party

The sale does not necessarily have to take place in a store. The courts have held that a sale is deemed to take place in a party where the minor pays a fee upon entering, intended to defray the expenses of the alcoholic beverages being served. For example, a minor who gains entrance to a party by paying a 10$ fee and is later on served alcoholic drinks is considered to have purchased an alcoholic beverage. The organizers of the party may be considered to have ‘sold’ the alcoholic beverage to the minor in this instance and may be held liable.


When a parent, guardian, or another adult knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age, the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage can also be made liable.

Under this exception, the law considers the furnishing of alcohol to be the proximate cause of injury or death; thus, the adult who provided the alcoholic drink to the minor can be made liable.

Call Now Button