N.J.: auto insurer told to pay for social-host liability

Quest for deep pockets: the homeowners’ insurer had already thrown in its policy limits over an accident in which an 18 year old guest allowed to consume alcohol at a private home had injured himself in a car crash. Now an Ocean County, N.J. judge has ruled that the party host’s auto insurer can also be obliged to provide coverage under a general liability endorsement, ruling it irrelevant that the accident had nothing to do with the insured’s own cars. [New Jersey Law Journal]


  • This is every parent’s nightmare. You host an adolescent party and there is drinking and merrymaking and someone gets into an accident. Kids at this age are just learning to drive. Mix alcohol, youth, inexperience with parental angst and you have a formula for disaster.

  • You would not have a claim in Maryland in this case. You could also not implicate auto insurance in such a case in Maryland either.

    I don’t think it is every parent’s nightmare. It is the nightmare of parents who would have kids over their house who were drinking and not make sure those same kids were not driving.

    I don’t know whether parents should let underage kids drink in the house. We just had a big scandal with our Attorney General who is running for Governor who did just that. I see both sides of that. But if you pick the “let them drink” side, you better be carefully regulating their conduct, including whether they drive a car. You might not have legal liability for this in Maryland, but there is lots of moral liability involved.

  • If the auto insurer didn’t want to cover general liability, they shouldn’t have offered such an endorsement nor accepted the insured’s money for it.

  • Under many of these laws, even a parent who made sure kids didn’t drive would be charged. They’re basically anti-alcohol (and anti-youth) laws.

  • I agree with Max Kennerly. If the general liability endorsement didn’t spell out what was covered and what wasn’t or could be considered to be in conflict with other parts of the policy, the auto insurer is going to lose every time.

  • Just a few points. First, the under age 18 drinking law is absurd: a 20 year old Marine who wins the Medal of Honor in combat for his country cannot go to a bar and buy a beer. Second, no insurance policy should be interpreted to require coverage for a policyowner who goes out, gets drunk, and injures himself in a wreck. Why? Because he was engaged in criminal activity-DWI- at the time he got hurt and under traditional law insurance does not cover insureds hurt while committing crimes. Third, parents (or their insurance companies) should not be liable either civilly or criminally for underage kids drinking at their homes absent evidence the parents themselves furnished the alcoholic beverages.