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Social Host Liability Extended to Business Functions?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 26, 2011 6:49 AM

As a result of a recent New Mexico Supreme Court ruling challenging the responsibility of a group of pharmaceutical representatives for a drunk driving accident, state alcohol liability laws no longer only apply to the reckless bar, liquor store, or homebound social host.

Liability has been extended to include persons who host private or business functions in a licensed establishment--so long as they pay for and control the flow of alcohol.

According to the ruling, prior to killing a young child while driving under the influence, Alicia Gonzales was wined and dined by a group of pharmaceutical representatives. In an attempt to gain business, they plied her and her colleagues with alcohol during a luncheon, and then at two separate bars.

The child's mother sued, arguing that the representatives were responsible under social host liability laws.

Like most states, New Mexico has enacted a statute that imposes alcohol liability on persons who recklessly or negligently provide liquor to those who then cause injuries.

Under these statutes, it's common for people who host events at their home to be held responsible should they allow a guest to drive under the influence when impaired.

But what about persons who host social events outside of their homes? Such as with business functions?

The court determined that alcohol liability laws apply even when an event takes place outside a host's home.

So, for the purpose of social host liability in New Mexico, "social host" includes persons who pay for and control the flow of alcohol, especially when done for personal or financial gain.

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