Maybe you plan on throwing a house party this summer where you will serve your guests beer and wine in celebration of the occasion. Some guests, however, might take their drinking too far and become intoxicated.
Even worse, they might then decide to drive home after the party while intoxicated and wind up causing a car crash.
It is easy to see why a drunk driver should be held accountable for any crashes they cause, as they directly caused the collision. But can you, as the person who served them alcohol, also be held accountable for a subsequent drunk driving crash?
Dram shop laws
Social hosts can be held liable for drunk driving crashes under Massachusetts dram shop laws. It is against the law to serve someone alcohol if that person is already visibly drunk. If a person serves a drunk person more alcohol, the server can be held negligent in a subsequent lawsuit.
This is true whether the person who serves the alcohol is a bartender or a private homeowner.
What is negligence?
We all have a responsibility to avoid driving while intoxicated since doing so is inherently dangerous. If we choose to drive drunk and cause a crash that causes someone else to be harmed, this might be considered negligence.
This is because the crash would not have occurred but for our intoxication and injuring someone is an anticipatable consequence of drunk driving.
When it comes to dram shop laws, we all have a responsibility to avoid serving someone alcohol when they are already drunk, as doing so will only make the person more intoxicated and thus a greater danger to themselves and others.
If we choose to serve an intoxicated person alcohol and that person causes a crash, we might be held negligent. This is because the crash might not have occurred if we had not served the person alcohol and a drunk driving crash is a foreseeable consequence of serving an intoxicated person even more alcohol.
Drunk driving crashes are certainly tragic, as they are entirely preventable. No one is forced to drive drunk — it is an intentional decision that we all know is dangerous.
So, if a drunk driver causes a crash that injures someone else, it is important to hold all responsible parties accountable, including the person who negligently provided the motorist with alcohol.