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13 Shot At House Party, Property Owner Could Be Legally Liable

A shooting at a crowded house party this month in Bridgeport, Conn., left 13 guests wounded.

At least two gunmen hiding in hedges surrounding the backyard, opened fire at about 1:30 a.m. At first, many of the 100 or so party-goers thought the sound of gunshots was fireworks. Even the disc jockey at the crowded house party told guests not to worry about the “fireworks.”

The shooting victims range in age from 18 to 24. One woman was in critical condition after she was shot in the face, and a man who was shot in the face, sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The other victims — one woman and 10 men — were treated for non-life-threatening injuries to their lower extremities. Most were shot in the legs. Five of the victims remained hospitalized a day after the shooting.

Party organizers had requested a permit from the police to sell alcohol at the gathering. Even though the permit was denied, authorities believe they charged for alcohol and as a result, they may face criminal charges.

Not only could the homeowners be criminally liable for selling alcohol, they could be sued for injuries suffered by those in attendance, especially underaged drinkers.

Social host liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to guests.

Law enforcement officials cannot always determine who provided alcohol at a party, so enforcing laws, in particular, those that prohibit giving alcohol to people younger than 21, can be difficult. Social host ordinances give police a tool for holding adults accountable. These ordinances allow law enforcement officers to cite the person who hosts an underage drinking party on their property.

More than 150 cities and counties, and 24 states have adopted social host ordinances, including: Alaska, Alabama, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Oregon, Illinois, South Carolina, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, Maryland, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Washington, Missouri.

Many homeowners insurance policies would cover a small gathering of 10 or 15 friends having a backyard barbecue and not drinking. However, some parties or special events might be too big to be covered by standard homeowners insurance and can quickly overwhelm liability coverage. Typically events like a house party are not covered under the terms of home insurance. Owners may need a special event or umbrella insurance policy to be adequately protected.

Even after everyone leaves the party, the host could still be liable for third-party claims should a guest who drives drunk injure someone.

Every person harmed by a wrongful act, defective device or negligence deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of such an act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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