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Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a Social Host

December 18, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Pennsylvania has some of the most strict laws governing alcohol of any state. For instance, liquor and wine can only be sold in 600 state-run stores, according to Time. While inconvenient for some, alcohol laws are designed to not only curb alcoholism, a disease that affects one in eight Americans according to The Washington Post, but are created to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by intoxication, namely drunk driving. One of Pennsylvania’s little-known laws is the Dram Shop Act. The Dram Shop Act 47 § 4-497 in Pennsylvania provides legal grounds for suing a “social host” when someone gets injured due to alcohol consumption.

Recovering Compensation From a Social Host

In Pennsylvania, a party who is served alcohol at a private party or private event can sue the host or property owner of that event if they get hurt as a result of their own intoxication. Or, a third party could sue the host or property owner if they get injured by a drunk driver who became drunk at that person’s home or event. For example, if you were walking home at night after becoming intoxicated at a friend’s party, and fell stumbling drunk into the street and were hit by a car, you could file a lawsuit against that friend. In another example, if you were driving and struck by a DUI driver, you could sue the social host who served alcohol to that DUI driver (in addition to a lawsuit against the DUI driver themselves).

Who Qualifies as a Social Host?

  • Property owner hosting a private party;
  • Host or server of alcohol at a private party or event (such as a fraternity);
  • Only adults over 21 years old are considered social hosts. A 20-year-old serving beer out of a keg at a fraternity party could not be sued under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act.
  • Only adults over 21 years old who are knowingly serving alcohol to those under 21 years of age. A social host cannot be held liable for another party’s damages if they serve alcohol to an adult 21 years old or more who injures themselves or another as a result of their intoxication.

Restaurants, clubs, bars, and other establishments licensed to sell alcohol cannot be sued under the Dram Shop Act. These establishments are beholden to even stricter laws, regardless of the patron’s age.

Reach Out to a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were under 21 at the time of your injury and the host was over 21 and knowingly served you alcohol, you may have a case. Likewise, if you were injured by someone under 21 who became intoxicated by a social host 21 years or older, you may have a case worth pursuing. Our Philadelphia attorneys can help you discover what really happened and how old each party was at the time of your injury. Contact the Philadelphia dram shop attorneys of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today for help.



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