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Serving Alcohol to Minors in California

by Paul Overett
June 29, 2020
by Paul Overett
June 29, 2020
two persons holding drinking glasses filled with beer

Civil Liability for Selling or Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

When a bar or restaurant sells or furnishes alcohol to an intoxicated minor who then causes injury or death to another person while under the influence, the institution that sold the alcohol can be held liable. 

According to California Business and Professions Code 25602.1, a person may bring a cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death against a person licensed to sell alcohol if they serve a person under the age of 21 who is obviously intoxicated.

A licensee who sells or furnishes alcohol to an intoxicated minor can face criminal, administrative, and civil liability. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is responsible for licensing and can enforce fines and administrative sanctions against an owner or employee who violates a law or standard.

Failure to Check I.D.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control recommends that licensees check the identification of anyone who looks under the age of 30. A licensee or employee must show that they:

  •  Relied on a bona fide I.D. (a valid driver license or state-issued I.D. card); and
  • Showed good faith in checking the I.D. (made a reasonable inspection).

Failure to check and ID in this way could result in the bar or establishment being held liable if they serve alcohol to a minor who then hurts or kills another person.

Criminal Liability for Serving Alcohol to Minors

Under Business and Professions Code 25658(a), a person may be held criminally liable who “sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age.” If convicted, a licensee may face significant fines, jail time, and community service requirements.

California Social Host Laws

Under Civil Code 1714(d), a person may pursue civil liability against a “parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known to be under 21 years of age, … and the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries and death.”

In most circumstances, California limits liability against “social hosts” when an intoxicated person inflicts injury or death upon another person. However, if the person served is under the age of 21, the social host can be held responsible.

What to Do If You Are Injured by an Intoxicated Minor

If an intoxicated minor injures you, you may have the right to bring a claim for damages. If it can be shown that a licensee supplied alcohol to an intoxicated minor, you may be entitled to compensation from the bar, restaurant, or store. In order to get the maximum recovery available, it is imperative that you retain an experienced personal injury attorney.

The laws governing social host and dram shop liability in California are extremely limited. You need a knowledgeable lawyer who will fight to get you the money you deserve after an accident or injury. The Overett Group is here to help you understand your rights and get you the recovery you need to get back on your feet. There are never any fees unless we win. Contact our trusted injury lawyers today at (562) 986-9864 for a free consultation.

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