Badge - Rated by Super Lawyers Victor A. Rotolo
Badge - Rated by Super Lawyers Anthony P. Kearns third
Badge - Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Badge - Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forums
Badge - New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Attorney
Badge - New Jersey's Best Lawyers For Families 2018
Badge - AV Preeminent Victor A. Rotolo 2024
Badge - Client Champion Gold 2024
Badge - Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce
Badge - Top 100 The National Trial Lawyers
Please click Award & Selection Criteria & Methodology for information regarding the specific criteria used for selection of each of the above awards.

Social Host Responsibilities

If you are planning to host a social gathering, whether it is to celebrate the holidays, mark a special occasion, or simply to get together with friends and family, it would benefit you to understand your legal responsibilities under New Jersey’s social host liability laws.

Victor Rotolo successfully argues before the NJ Supreme Court in a case of constitutional import, in which the Court ruled that a DUI conviction cannot be used in any later DUI case for sentencing purposes if, (1) the individual plead or was found guilty, and (2) the individual was not advised of his/her right to counsel and, as to indigent individuals, the right to assigned counsel.

New Jersey has some of the most complex laws in the country governing the sale, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages; in fact, many of these stipulations are unique to New Jersey. Some of these laws pertain to who can be held responsible for alcohol-related injuries.

Former police officer Victor Rotolo has years of experience representing clients in these matters. The attorneys at Kearns Rotolo Law understand that each case is unique and requires an individual approach. They focus on the particulars of your case to help minimize the consequences.

Dram Shop Laws

Commercial establishments that serve alcohol are subject to the State’s dram shop laws. These laws allow a person injured as a result of the actions of an intoxicated person to file a claim against the establishment that served alcohol to that person provided:

  • the intoxicated person was visibly impaired when served; or
  • the server knew or should have known that the individual was under the legal drinking age.
Social Host Liability Laws

New Jersey’s social host liability laws are similar, but they pertain to individuals who provide alcohol in a private social setting. Providing alcohol, under these laws, includes making alcoholic beverages available through self-service or allowing another person to bring alcohol to the event.

Like dram shop laws, social host liability laws do not allow inebriated persons to hold the host liable for injuries they suffer from a fall, a motor vehicle accident or other incident. However, a third party injured as a result of the inebriated person’s actions can file a claim against the host for damages including:

  • medical fees,
  • hospital bills,
  • therapy and / or rehabilitation expenses,
  • lost wages,
  • pain and suffering,
  • property damage, and
  • the value of services related to household and childcare responsibilities the person would have performed if not injured.

The injured party may also seek punitive damages from the host or the host’s insurance company. That person has two years from the date of the injury to file a social host liability lawsuit under the State’s statute of limitations.

Serving Alcohol to Minors

New Jersey’s social host liability laws also state that it is illegal for adults to knowingly allow anyone under the legal age to consume alcohol on property the adult either owns or leases. In New Jersey, as in most of the country, the legal drinking age is 21. The State law does allow for exceptions to this rule:

  • persons younger than 21 can drink alcohol in connection with religious ceremonies; and
  • parents or legal guardians are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in a private setting.

The latter exception excludes friends and acquaintances of the minor child, so parents may be faced with fines and possible jail time if their children hold a party on their property and alcohol is consumed by anyone under legal age, whether or not the adult is present on the property at the time.

Adults who violate New Jersey’s social host laws can be held liable if the underage drinker is killed or injured in an accident as a result of his or her drinking and sued for damages including medical expenses and property damages related to the accident, as well as for emotional pain and suffering.

New Jersey state laws grant substantial discretion to municipalities in regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol within their boundaries, so it would be beneficial to familiarize yourself with your local ordinances. Generally speaking, however, you can diminish your risks of being liable for alcohol-related injuries under New Jersey’s social host liability laws by providing non-alcoholic refreshments; offering alternative means of transportation or overnight accommodations; discontinuing service of alcohol to visibly impaired guests, and never serving alcohol to minors.

If you need an experienced attorney to represent you because you either knowingly or unknowingly violated New Jersey’s social host liability laws, contact Kearns Rotolo Law. Likewise, if you are injured as a result of the actions of an intoxicated person, Kearns Rotolo Law can help prepare your case for damages resulting from your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Our attorneys have in excess of 125 years of experience litigating personal injury lawsuits and will work to help you recover the damages you are entitled to or to defend your rights under the law. Call our offices at (908) 534-7900 to discuss the particulars of your situation.

What Our Clients are Saying

I was very proud to be represented by Tony and felt secure at a time I needed a compass to head out of a difficult bind. Confidence in your counsel and a sense of security in understanding how best to proceed are important reasons to consider Anthony Kearns and his team of outstanding lawyers.

- Lynn

Tony was excellent! He was knowledgeable, responsive and on-time. His experience as a County Prosecutor definitely helped our case as he knows how the legal system works and how to navigate. I highly recommend Tony and his office.

- Matt

Thankfully I found Kearns Rotolo Law and I had a wonderful experience working with Charles Rifici on a difficult divorce/child custody issue. I am so grateful for all the work and guidance he provided. He always took his time and diligently went through all my options with me so I could make the decisions that benefitted my family and I. I will be forever thankful for the top notch services he provided.

- Cinthya

In March of 2022 I contacted Kearns Rotolo Law Firm with an urgent problem, Mr. Kearns and Mr. Rotolo contacted me immediately to give me hope as to rectify my problem. The end result was Mr Kearns was able to solve my issue through extreme professionalism, I am very grateful I found Kearns Rotolo Law firm and I would recommend their law firm to anyone that has a less extreme problem or a more complex problem, I am very grateful for their services.

- Bill

I met with Mr. Kearns yesterday about a devastating situation affecting our family. Mr. Kearns and his entire staff made us feel extremely comfortable and showed our family a compassionate side that gave us comfort in the most uncomfortable of situations. Thank you very much. God Bless.

- Christian