During this time of year many people are entertaining at their homes.  Those gatherings may include the provision of alcohol by the host or by guests who bring alcohol with them.  Hosts need to be careful in those situations because there is the potential for personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage liability against the host if someone is hurt.  Here are three examples that may arise:

1.    A guest hurts someone else on the premises.  This is a tricky situation because it may depend on exactly what the guest did, whether the guest had consumed alcohol, and, if so,  whether the alcohol was provided by the host or by someone else.  The possibility of  liability increases with both the severity of the guest’s conduct and the host’s opportunity to prevent it.

Oddly, because of Iowa’s social host immunity law (Iowa Code 123.49(1)(a)), a host may not be responsible for on-premises injuries if they were the result of the guest’s intoxication from alcohol that the host provided.  Iowa Code 123.49(1)(a) gives immunity from alcohol-related injuries to persons, including social hosts, that do not hold an  alcoholic beverage license or permit.  That immunity only seems to apply if the social host provided the alcohol to the guest.  Thus, if a guest arrives already intoxicated, is not     served any alcohol by the host, and hurts someone on the premises, the host may be liable because the host did not give the guest alcohol; rather the guest consumed alcohol elsewhere.

2.    A guest leaves in a vehicle and hurts or kills themselves or someone else in another car or on a motorcycle in an alcohol-related accident.  In that situation the host is almost certainly immune from liability if the  sole allegation against the host stems from the provision of alcohol to the guest.  In that case Iowa Code 123.49(1)(a) likely immunizes the host from liability.  That is in contrast with a business that has an alcoholic beverage license or permit, which would face dram shop liability in such a situation.

3.    Provision of alcohol to someone under legal age for consumption of alcohol.  A host may be liable if it provides or allows the provision of alcohol to an underage guest, who then hurts themselves or someone else after leaving the host’s premises.  The Iowa Supreme     Court has determined that Iowa Code 123.49(1)(a)’s social host immunity does not prevent social host liability when the alcohol is provided to someone who is underage.   The Iowa Supreme Court has also suggested that a host’s liability for provision of alcohol to an underage guest may also extend to incidents that happen on the premises.


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