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California Social Host Laws: Be Responsible; Beware Liability

Wrongful Death Attorney



by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230


Forget the drama, trash talk and player scandals that may have occurred this past year. The final football matchup of the season is coming, and there's a bigger issue at stake for those planning on throwing parties this weekend – that of social responsibility and liability.

Wrongful Death Liability

Last year, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that party hosts may be held legally liable when an underage drinker causes harm to others. The ruling came in favor of a family of a college student who was killed by an underage drunken driver. The hostess of the party (who was underage herself) charged her guests $3-5 admission to help fund the party. The court said this cover charge essentially turned the party into a "pop-up nightclub", and thus made the hostess liable, as she sold alcohol to a minor.

Upon hearing the defense's arguments, the Court said among other things, that "a social host can retain her immunity by simply refraining from charging any of her invited guests."

As of 1978 the state legislature decided that liability for the death or injury of someone hurt or killed by a drunk driver falls on the driver, rather than on the private individual who provided the driver with alcohol, since most private parties have open bars where the guests serve themselves. But the law changed in 2011, with a new caveat: a host who knowingly serves alcohol to a minor, can now be held liable.

California Civil Code §1714(d) states:

(1) Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known, to be under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.

 (2) A claim under this subdivision may be brought by, or on behalf of, the person under 21 years of age or by a person who was harmed by the person under 21 years of age.

California Social Host Laws and Overindulging Adults

Though the laws for dram shops (businesses that sell alcohol) and social hosts generally protect those serving alcohol from liability, the vendor or host can still be held liable for serving a minor, as stated in Civil Code §1714(d) above; and may be found guilty of a misdemeanor, for serving "habitual or common drunkards" under Business and Professions Code §25602.

Even though over-serving drunkards may only constitute a misdemeanor, there's still the question of social responsibility. Just remember this rule of thumb for your Super Bowl party: more food, less alcohol, no charge…and never give alcohol to a minor.

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him by phone: (818) 907-3230, or by email:


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No Tricks: Halloween Safety Tips for All

Personal InjuryAccident Attorney



by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230


Halloween isn't usually our most dangerous holiday when it comes to safety on the roads. That infamy is generally attached to the "drinking" festivals like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, according to the National Safety Council.

But this year, Halloween happens to fall on a Friday, which means many revelers won't have to get up early to get to work the following morning. Halloween parties are a lot more tempting when held on Fridays or Saturdays, than say, Tuesday.

Combine that factor along with the number of trick-or-treaters out on the road that evening plus the number of distracted drivers navigating pedestrian-crowded neighborhoods, and All Hallows Eve starts to look just a little scarier this year. With that in mind, we thought we'd share some Halloween safety tips, in the hopes of keeping you and yours celebrating in good health.

Pedestrian Safety:

  1. Add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags, particularly if the costume is dark-colored. Drivers will see you better if you're not blending into the shadows.

  2. Use a flashlight, or carry glow sticks.

  3. If wearing a mask, make sure it fits well. You want good peripheral vision to avoid stepping on your fellow ghouls and goblins and crossing the street. (Don't wear your mask while driving. You want good peripheral vision when behind the wheel too.)

  4. Keep clear of candles, especially if wearing flowing robes or other costumes that billow and trail.

  5. Remember the basics: Use sidewalks and crosswalks whenever possible, and look both ways before crossing.

Other Halloween Safety Reminders:

  1. Make sure costume accessories are soft and short. You don't want to trip others with swords and light sabers, or poke someone in the eye with Neptune's trident.

  2. Trick-or-treating is a "buddy" activity. Don't go alone, or let your kids go alone.

  3. Examine the goodies for tampering before consumption. Make sure you keep smaller children away from treats that may cause choking.

  4. Decorative contact lenses may cause eye injuries. If you must have cat eyes for the evening, at least spring for an optometrist's exam so you can get properly fitting lenses.

  5. Halloween makeup and accessories like fangs should be tested well in advance. Allergic reactions and mouth abrasions can really make mayhem of your holiday.

Remember, common sense is key. You've heard all or most of the above recommendations before, but sometimes in the spirit of the season, we tend to forget. Here's hoping you remember – and that you also have a safe, and Happy Halloween.

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him via email: or by phone: (818) 907-3230.

LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120