South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Social Hosts Liable in South Carolina for Serving Alcohol to Persons Age 18-20
Description

South Carolina high court imposed a new common law duty on social hosts, holding them liable for injuries that result from consumption of alcoholic beverages provided by the host to persons between the ages of 18 and 20.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Liability; Social Host; Alcoholic Beverages; Minors

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

The Bowdens hosted a party at their home. One guest, age 19, was allowed to drink alcohol. When he was driving home he was killed in a one car accident; his blood alcohol was 0.291 percent, more than triple the legal limit. His mother sued the Bowdens for negligence for serving alcohol. The trial court granted summary judgment to the mother; the Bowdens appealed. The appeals court held for Bowdens; the mother appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Previously, South Carolina courts have declined to impose a common law duty on social hosts who serve intoxicating beverages. Henceforth, “adult social hosts who knowingly and intentionally serve, or cause to be served, alcoholic beverages to persons they know or should know to be between the ages of 18 and 20 may incur liability where, under the same circumstances, they are immune for service to persons aged at least 21 years old.” The rule will be applied beginning with this case.

Citation

Marcum v. Bowden, ---S.E.2d--- (2007 WL 415672, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2007)

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