If you hold a party in Wisconsin and let a guest under the legal drinking age drive after consuming alcohol, you could be held liable for a drinking under the influence (DUI) accident. This is an unusual qualification for social host liability, which is absent in most states that do penalize social hosts for DUI.
The legal drinking age in Wisconsin is 21, but it is lawful for someone under 21 to drink if a parent or guardian is present. So let us say you host the annual family reunion, and you run out of ice. You send out your 18 year old to the nearest 7-11, and he gets into an accident. Because he is not of legal drinking age, that one beer he had could lead to a DUI charge. Wisconsin has an “absolute sobriety” law which means any amount of alcohol found in the system of a minor will lead to a DUI. If that wasn’t bad enough, if the accident that got your son arrested in the first place resulted in injuries to another person you may be liable for exemplary and actual damages just because you let your son drive a few blocks after he drank a beer.
But those in Wisconsin are still lucky. The qualification limits the liability of those who hosts drinking parties or who provided liquor such as a bar or restaurant (this is dram shop liability) to underage drinkers. You won’t have to worry about it every time you hold a drinking party. Those over the age of 21 who get sloppy drunk still should not be allowed to drive, but the liability for injuries sustained in a DUI is theirs and theirs alone. Just don’t let any underage drinkers near the car keys.
So if you are ever injured in a DUI accident and the driver is under the age of 21, you will need a social host liability lawyer to straighten out who is liable for your injuries.