Social host liability law is an area of tort law governing the duties owed by social hosts to both their guests and the general public. It originated as a common-law negligence doctrine, but has been heavily codified by almost every state legislature in recent years. Under the common law, a social host who provided alcohol to a guest was never liable to the guest or a third party for damages resulting from the guest’s intoxication. With the passage of time and the changing of societal values, customs, and public policy, however, both courts and legislatures across the United States have felt it necessary to expand the scope of social host liability. Today, many jurisdictions allow recovery against social hosts who distribute alcohol to minors and visibly intoxicated persons.
This Note begins by providing a brief history of social host liability law in the United States. It then provides a comprehensive survey of the current social host liability laws of each state, analyzing the various approaches and the legal theories supporting them. Next, this Note proposes an approach to social host liability that best benefits society, taking into account both the need to deter irresponsible behavior and to protect innocent parties from harm. Finally, this Note argues that a social host who distributes narcotics to a guest violates the duty of reasonable care and should be liable for injuries resulting from the guest’s intoxication. . .