If you are hosting a party in Colorado for the holidays, or working as a bartender during the upcoming holiday parties, it’s good to know about relevant laws. You may think that it’s completely the responsibility of your guests or patrons to control their alcohol intake and get themselves home safely, but it’s not that black and white. If you over-serve your guests and they get into a drunk driving accident, could you be in trouble? Keep reading to learn about the Colorado laws surrounding intoxicated guests.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability refers to laws that place responsibility on a host if injury or death is caused due to guests being too intoxicated. Most states have social host responsibility laws or varying degrees.

In Colorado, a host cannot be held liable for their intoxicated guests’ actions if the guest in question is an adult. Even if the host sees their 21 and over guests getting extremely intoxicated and continues to let them drink, they are not liable for their behavior.

If a host, however, serves their under 21-year-old guests alcohol or sees them consuming alcohol and makes no effort to stop them, they could be held liable. This can also apply for negligently serving alcohol to minors, meaning if they should have known that the minor was consuming alcohol and planned to drive, they could be found responsible.

But what if you didn’t know that the guest in question was a minor? The Colorado Supreme Court clarified this answer in 2018. In the case of Prezekurat v. Torres, a large party was held where alcohol was served and guests also brought their own alcohol. One party attendee who was unknown by the hosts was 20 years old, and caused a drunk driving accident on their way home that resulted in serious injuries. It was determined that the hosts had no liability because they did not have actual knowledge that the guest in question was underage.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

Dram shop liability refers to laws that place responsibility on anyone who sells alcohol, such as a bartender, if they over-serve patrons and it leads to injury or death.

Colorado Revised Statutes section 12-47-801 states that licensed alcohol vendors, such as bars and liquor stores, can be held liable if they serve alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person. This means that if a bar patron is slurring their words or falling over and a bartender continues to serve them, and that patron drives home drunk and causes an accident, the bartender could be held liable (in addition to the drunk patron).

If you ever see someone getting “cut off’ by the bartender, it’s not just because that person is becoming belligerent. The bartender is following the law and ensuring their patron doesn’t cause harm to others.

Social Host Laws in Other States

There are 18 states that have general social host liability laws. This means that even if guests at a private gathering are of legal drinking age, their host could get in trouble for continuing to serve or provide them with alcohol after seeing they are visibly intoxicated. A host doesn’t need to closely monitor all of their guests’ intoxication levels, however, if they are aware that their guest is extremely drunk, it is their duty to stop serving them. Every case will differ, and liability will ultimately depend on the state laws and the specific circumstances.

If you or someone you love was injured by a drunk driver and you have questions about liability, the Denver personal injury lawyers at the Bendinelli Law Firm can help.