Who's liable if a party guest has too much to drink?

By Evrod Cassimy – bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If a guest has too much to drink at your holiday party, then leaves and gets involved in a drunk driving accident, are "you" liable? We saw some reports and press releases today that claim the host of the party could be to blame but we wanted to know more.

We found that here in Virginia the party's host is not responsible for what someone does after they leave their house intoxicated. That might not be the case though in other states.

As people make their rounds to holiday parties this season, alcohol is sometimes involved. New information released today from AllState Insurance raises a big question. Who's responsible for party go-ers actions if they leave the party under the influence?

"You can and will be legally and financially responsible for anyone leaving the premises while alcohol impaired," said AllState agent, Tonya Brand.

But we checked with our legal analyst, Steve Benjamin. He says that's not necessarily the case. Under Virginia law, a homeowner has no liability to a person killed or injured by a departed guest. People we spoke to say that makes sense.

"As an individual that's driving a vehicle you know you're going to be driving and it's your responsibility," said Joyce Venable.

"It's the person that's drinking," said Mike Hannon. "I think it's their responsibility to watch what they drink."

The same thing goes for people leaving bars or clubs.

"Neither they nor their employees are liable for the injuries caused by customers who leave drunk and end up hurting someone," said Benjamin. "In many states they would be, but not in Virginia."

While anyone can sue you for liability due to injuries at or leaving your home, under Virginia law you will likely not be found legally responsible. AllState however encourages everyone throwing holiday parties to monitor their guest's drinking to prevent any type of accident in the first place.

We contacted AllState again about what our legal analyst told us. You should know that you can get in trouble though if your party guests are drinking underage. If you're concerned about liability protection anyway, you should check your insurance policy.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.