Liquor Liability Exposures and Controls

Our laws set forth a statutory obligation not to sell, give, or furnish alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated persons and in no instance to minors. The laws have created and the courts construe that there are minimum statutory standards of care.

There is also social host liability imposed on those, other than licensed retailers of liquor, who give, sell, or furnish alcohol to someone who later is alleged to have caused injury or death. Under social host liability theories, state legislatures and the courts have held hosts of private parties, weddings, and other social events liable.

Diocesan facilities, including schools, are often utilized as the place where special events are held and may include the selling, serving, or furnishing of alcoholic beverages. Most often, these events are sponsored by the parishes or schools as a means of raising funds for general support or for particular fund raising drives. There are also events that are purely social in nature wherein parishioners or supporters gather to promote goodwill. Whatever the nature of the event, in all instances where alcoholic beverages are available, locations need to develop and implement responsible practices and procedures designed to reduce incidences of wrongful intoxication. In addition to any obligations imposed by law, we have a moral obligation to provide the highest degree of protection to all people who are, or will be, on the property of parishes or institutions of the diocese. These legal and moral obligations should be communicated to renters of our facilities as they apply to the host of the event.

Each location that intends to have an event that includes the selling, serving, or furnishing of alcoholic beverages needs to give early forethought and planning on how they will specifically address the issue of liquor liability. Although each location and event differ, there are some general points which should be implemented in planning these events. Some of the basic points which we frequently discuss with parishes and schools include the following:



Learn to Recognize the Signals

According to a chart on blood alcohol level and behavior from the Alcohol Education Program on the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, here is how a person weighing 150 pounds or more and who has not recently eaten reacts to an average drink1:

Here are some recommendations for dealing with an intoxicated individual:

  1. A standard drink equals approximately 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.