The liability of social hosts for the actions of guests to whom they have served alcoholic beverages is an example of a duty imposed by the law to try to prevent a third person from causing harm to innocent people.
In Hart v. Ivey the North Carolina Supreme Court has recognized such a cause of action.
In that case the Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident. She sued a number of people, including the 18-year-old driver of the car that struck hers, the driver's father, the hosts of a keg party who had supplied beer to the driver earlier in the day, and the beer vendor.
The Court held that the Defendant (social host) owed a common law duty to the driving public not to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person who Defendant knew to be driving.
Upon proof that:
- the Defendants knew the driver was under the influence of alcohol, and
- knew that he would soon be behind the wheel of an automobile,
a jury could find that it was negligent to serve the driver alcoholic beverages and that injuries of the kind for which plaintiff sought recovery were foreseeable.
Hence, the moral of the post: if you know that your friend is too intoxicated to drive after a great party you hosted ... pull out that couch or call the taxi. Under no circumstances let the friend drive home.