Q&A: Serving Alcohol at Holiday Parties and Associated Liabilities

December 16, 2013

Q: I am hosting a holiday party where alcoholic beverages will be served to my adult guests.  Can I be held liable for serving alcohol to a guest who later gets into an accident after leaving my party?

A: Generally, no, you cannot be held liable if an adult guest is injured – or causes an injury to another – after consuming alcohol at your party. Wisconsin law generally favors holding the intoxicated adult liable for damages caused by his or her own negligence while favoring immunity for the person(s) who provided the alcohol. Wisconsin Statute § 125.035 provides that persons are immune from civil liability arising out of procuring (dispensing, selling, giving away) alcohol to adults.

However, there are exceptions to the immunity rule, such as if the host misrepresents that a beverage is alcohol-free when it is not, or if the host somehow forces a guest to drink alcohol. Of course, there is also an exception for knowingly serving alcohol to minors.

In the end, let common sense be your guide; don’t overserve your guests, and if a guest has too much of the holiday spirit, a cab ride is worth the expense and minor inconvenience.

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For more information about "Q&A: Serving Alcohol at Holiday Parties and Associated Liabilities," contact Paul D. Curtis at pcurtis@axley.com or 608.283.6768.