Office of General Counsel

Social Host Liability/Underage Drinking

In South Carolina, it is unlawful for persons to transfer or give alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21. Violations constitute criminal misdemeanors and are punishable by fine or imprisonment. S.C. Code §§ 61-4-90, 61-6-4070.

Questions often arise regarding the responsibility of “social hosts” who are hosting an event at which alcoholic beverages are served when underage guests — anyone under the age of 21 — may also be present. In 2007, the South Carolina Supreme Court made it clear that social hosts may be legally liable in the event that an inebriated underage guest injures himself or others as a result of the consumption of alcohol served by the social host. The two cases in which the Supreme Court considered this issue involved facts that are not uncommon. In one, a 19-year-old guest attended a party where alcoholic beverages were available to all guests. He consumed alcohol and left with other guests. He went home with another guest where he was detained in order to “sober up,” but when he drove from this guest’s home, the 19-year-old was killed in a one-car accident. The party hosts were sued for wrongful death. In the other case, another 19-year-old guest attended a business-related function where he consumed alcohol. He left that party and traveled to several other locations before being involved in a two-car accident in which he and a passenger in the other car were killed. The party hosts were sued for negligence.

Faculty, staff and students should take appropriate measures when serving alcohol at any event — whether it is a planned event or a casual get-together and regardless of whether it is on campus or off — to prevent the consumption of alcohol by persons under the age of 21. Of course, if the event is on campus or associated with an official University event, hosts must also comply with all Clemson University policies, including the Facilities Use Policy and Alcohol and Drug Policies.