Serving Alcohol at Your Next Party? 4 Things You Need to Know

People enjoy being together. Whether having a friend over for a drink, hosting a small dinner group or celebrating with a large party, we are all likely to host people at our homes.

There are special considerations that must be made when hosting a get-together with alcohol though. Hosts have a responsibility to provide a safe party environment – from well-lit stairs and cleared sidewalks to safe decks and supervised pools. This includes exercising caution and discretion when serving alcohol.

Responsibilities Regarding Alcohol

Pennsylvania law about social host liability falls under the Dram Shop Act. The Dram Shop Act is complicated and can be confusing, so we will break it down.

A social host is considered, “a person who furnishes another with alcohol in a social setting and not as a licensed vendor.” This includes someone who serves alcohol or allows guests to serve themselves.

According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, licensed establishments or businesses are not liable for injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated customer off-site, unless the customer was “…sold, furnished or given liquor or malt or brewed beverages by the said licensee or his agent, servant or employee when the said customer was visibly intoxicated.”

Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act also states that it is unlawful to “furnish liquor or malt or brewed beverages to certain persons” – specifically persons who are visibly intoxicated and minors.

So, what do you need to know when hosting a party with alcohol?


  1. Social hosts are accountable for injuries to or caused by minors (people under 21), if the host knowingly furnishes them with alcohol. Social hosts are generally not liable under the Dram Shop Act for injuries resulting from serving alcohol to people age 21 and older.

    For example, if you host a party and knowingly serve alcohol to Bobby, the 18-year-old friend of your son, first and foremost, you are legally liable for a third-degree misdemeanor for furnishing alcohol to a minor.

    Let’s say that Bobby then gets into a fight with another party guest, Frank, and injures him. Frank can now seek damages for his injuries from Bobby and he can make a social liability claim against you, the social host who knew Bobby was under 21, but still furnished him with alcohol.

    If Bobby was 21 years old and of legal age, then the claim could only be made against Bobby. You would not have social host liability in this instance.

  2. Hosting a Work Party? Employers hosting social events may be legally liable for injuries if any work-related activities happen at the event or if visibly intoxicated individuals or minors are served alcohol.

    When hosting a company event, ensure expectations are clearly communicated before the event. Let employees know that attendance is not required, no work-related activities will occur, and that respectful behavior and company policies apply.

    Plan in advance to have a licensed caterer or bartender working to ensure no minors or visibly intoxicated attendees are furnished with alcohol. A cash bar or drink tickets are other ways to limit attendees access to alcohol and limit your liability.

  3. Intoxicated people are more likely to be injured on your property, potentially leading to a premises liability lawsuit.

    People who are under the influence of alcohol are more likely to trip, slip, fall or otherwise injure themselves.

    If you have potentially dangerous areas on your property, it is your responsibility to alert guests to these areas and try to remedy them as best as possible. Read more about premises liability and your liability through the link above.

  4. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Prevent the stress and emotional strain of a possible DUI.

    DUIs can be traumatic, dangerous and deadly. While guests over 21 years of age who get drunk at your party cannot sue you if they get into an accident, the emotional toll of knowing that one of your guests hurt themself or someone else is a heavy and unnecessary burden to carry.

    Additionally, the risk of a social host liability claim for furnishing alcohol to minors is never worth it. Serving alcohol to minors could cost you financially, emotionally, and even earn you jail time. Never give alcohol to minors.

    There are a few ways you can prevent your guests from drinking too much or drinking at all, if they are minors.

    • - Always offer food and non-alcoholic drinks at your parties.

    • - Place the alcohol in a location that you can see to monitor any overindulging guests or prevent underage attendees from drinking too much.

    • - Hire a licensed caterer or bartender who can tactfully decline to serve those who have imbibed too much.

    Finally, if your guest has been charged with a DUI, we can help. Contact our skilled criminal defense team to help obtain a more favorable outcome.

Know Social Host Responsibilities, Rights and Who to Call

A little preparation goes a long way when hosting a party with alcohol. Know what your responsibilities are and make a plan to ensure your guest have a good time and are safe. If you are charged with a civil liability suit, give Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC a call and our social host liability attorneys and team will discuss your case and the best options for you.

For Attendees Sustaining Injuries, We Can Help You Too

For attendees who may have been injured at a party, by someone that was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, please know you may be able to pursue damages from both the perpetrator and possibly the social host who furnished them with drugs or alcohol. Contact Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC’s experienced personal injury lawyers to discuss how we can help you recover damages.

Were you injured on someone else’s property? You may be entitled to compensation that can help you to offset some of your expenses and recover from your injury. Contact Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC to discuss your case with a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney with experience and insight.

Contact us today to see how we can help you!
CALL (800) 422-5396 TODAY!



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Contact us today to see how we can help you!

CALL (800) 422-5396 TODAY!
140 East Third Street, Williamsport (570) 323-3768
320 Market Street, Lewisburg (570) 522-0505
Northern Tier Pennsylvania (570) 673-4081