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Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages to Minors

Friends in a CarTeenagers are notorious for their poor decision-making skills. When alcohol and vehicles enter the picture, the results can be serious, or even fatal. When an underage person is in a drunk driving accident and someone is injured or killed, a person who furnished alcohol to the minor may be civilly liable for damages. Both adults who furnish alcohol in their homes to minors and commercial establishments who serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated minors may be responsible for compensating anyone who is injured because of the minor’s intoxication.

Social Host Liability

Adults who, in their homes, furnish alcoholic beverages to minors may be held liable for any injuries caused by the minor. Either a third party injured by the minor or the injured minor him or herself may hold the adult social host responsible. To recover damages from the social host, the injured party must prove that:

  • An adult knowingly furnished beverages to the minor at the adult’s home;
  • The adult knew or should have known that the minor was under 21;
  • The plaintiff was harmed by the minor; and
  • The minor’s intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

Furnishing means supplying or providing the alcohol, and requires some affirmative act. Simply failing to protest the minor’s drinking, or failing to lock the liquor cabinet will not be sufficient to demonstrate that the adult furnished the alcohol.

Commercial Liability

Establishments that sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors may also be liable for any injuries resulting from the intoxication. Both an injured minor and any injured third parties may file suit against the bar or other commercial establishment. The injured party must demonstrate that:

  • The establishment was licensed or required to be licensed to sell alcoholic beverages;
  • The establishment provided alcoholic beverages to a minor under the age of 21;
  • When the establishment provided the alcohol to the minor, the minor showed symptoms of intoxication;
  • The minor harmed the plaintiff; and
  • The minor’s intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

For the establishment to be held liable, the minor must have been obviously intoxicated. To determine whether a minor was intoxicated, courts look at impaired judgment, breath, slurred speech, loss of balance or coordination, boisterous conduct, flushed face, and other symptoms of intoxication. The mere fact that a minor was drinking is not enough to show obvious intoxication.


When a social host or commercial establishment is found to be liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated minor, damages may include compensation for medical expenses, property damage, physical therapy costs, pain and suffering, and more. If you have been injured by an intoxicated minor, a personal injury attorney can help you recover compensation for your harm. Please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation.

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