How to Protect the HOA or Condo Association from Liability for Alcohol Related Accidents

Alcohol Related Liability

Here is the query sent to me:

“Historically, we have never had an issue in this regard that became legal.  We know there’s a newish law out of Sacramento that states parties are not responsible for adults who may have a mishap after imbibing on our premises.    However, our current Board is investigating what this means for our HOA.  Any recommendations, suggestions or experience worth sharing?”

I did a cursory search on the state website and did not locate any specific law that abrogates responsibility for any party when alcohol is served on premises. All I can say is that if an HOA is allowing alcohol to be served anywhere in the common area facilities, it will be a party to any lawsuit claiming liability for alcohol related accidents or deaths. No law will insulate an HOA from claims for negligence, and of negligence can be proved by any stretch of an argument, the HOA will have some, if not full, responsibility for the accident or death.

The best defense an HOA can have is to take all reasonable measures to absolve it of liability and these would come in the form of using good sense in regulating the opportunities, including requiring the party wanting to use the facilities (and/or Owner if it is a tenant seeking use) to sign a contract with specific parameters regarding the serving of alcohol and requires the party to seek and produce evidence of separate event insurance since depending on an owner or tenant to cover all liability if sued for an alcohol related death or accident is unrealistic. You can contact me through the website at for assistance.

See below at the end of the blog an Alcohol Waiver Form which is necessary for event planners. But a clubhouse or common area use agreement that requires the party actually in charge of the event, or the owner or tenant using the facilities, INDEMNIFIES, the association. Indemnifies means protects, takes responsibility for the costs if the association is sued, but even that is only effective as to the limits of the event party planner or the owner or tenant’s financial capabilities. And you can bet that a creative lawyer will find a way to try and pin some negligence claim on the HOA to bring it into the legal fray.

And as an aside, when putting in a query on the state website at using the words “alcohol laws” I came up with some interesting stuff:  And you might take some of this as past legislative actions that seek to either impose or limit liability, in an analogous situation if one exists in your HOA. In simple terms, when the legislature considers or passes a law, it is of record and a party seeking damages or making a liability claim has access and can raise these kinds of things in court.

In 2010 the lawmakers attempted to pass a law that would make homeowners responsible for alcohol related deaths in teens if the alcohol was served at the home. SUMMARY of proposed bill  :  Seeks to enact the Teen Alcohol Safety Act of 2010, adding California to the large preponderance of states that impose potential “social host” liability on adults who knowingly provide alcohol to minors who are subsequently injured or killed as a result of this lack of parental care.

About alcohol establishments (this does not apply if not selling the alcohol)

  1. 81. May a habitual drunkard or an obviously intoxicated person be sold alcoholic beverages?
  2. No. Every person who sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away, any alcoholic beverages to any habitual drunkard, or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor. (Section 25602)
  3. 82. How may a licensee determine whether a customer is obviously intoxicated?
  4. A customer is obviously intoxicated when an average person can plainly observe that the patron is intoxicated. The usual signs are staggering, alcoholic breath, slurred speech, poor muscular coordination, etc. (Section 25602)
  5. 83. Is a retail licensee required to close the doors of the licensed premises and not serve alcoholic beverages during the hours that an election is being held?
  6. No. The Legislature has repealed the law which prohibited sales on election days.

(Not very relevant but kind of interesting.)


Here is another recent law. Beauty salons and barber shops were added to an already established liquor sales law, here’s a clip.  “AB 1322, Daly. Alcoholic beverages: licenses: beauty salons and barber shops.

Existing law makes it unlawful for any person other than a licensee of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to sell, manufacture, or import alcoholic beverages in this state. Existing law allows the serving of alcohol without a license or permit in a limousine or as part of a hot air balloon ride service, provided there is no extra charge or fee for the alcoholic beverages.

This bill would additionally allow the serving of beer or wine without a license as part of a beauty salon or barber shop service if specified requirements are met, including that there be no extra charge or fee for the beer or wine, the license of the establishment providing the service is in good standing, and the servings are limited to specified amounts.”


Sample Event Planner Waiver Form required by state officials for events.

Alcohol Waiver Form

_[State Beach Event)_________ [name of party to be protected]

I, as the undersigned Permittee, hereby apply for a waiver to the alcohol prohibition at ___________________________ [location].

Waivers are granted, if requested in writing to groups who have reserved a picnic or sand area in _______________________________. The fee for this waiver for a group of up to 100 people is $500 and one monitor. 101-200 people $750.00 and one monitor. 201 or more is $1200.00 and up with 2 or more monitors (which will be

decided by the event coordinator.)

ALL Monitor fees

– $79.00 per hour with a 4-hour minimum, monitor must be scheduled from 30

minutes prior to your event to 30 minutes after breakdown is finished.

Caterers/Outside Services:

To serve alcohol you must have an active Alcoholic Beverage

Control (ABC) license #58 and it must include insurance with Host Liquor Liability. We will require you to turn in a copy of an authorized ABC-218 form for the event date no later than 10 days prior to the event.

A signed ABC-218 form signed by the Event Coordinator must be taken

to the Local ABC office with a $10 filing fee for authorization.

(ABC will not authorize anything less than 3 days from the date of the event.

Local ABC office serving the Huntington Beach area (714) 558-4101.

The prices above are for the permit only and do not include the site/activity fee.

The following limitations are in effect after a waiver has been granted.

  1. The sale of alcohol is not permitted.
  2. No glass containers of any kind. (Cans – ok).
  3. Only those over the age of twenty-one (21) may consume alcohol.
  4. The possession and/or consumption of alcohol will not be all owed outside of your reserved group area. Permittee is responsible to have the area flagged off with defined borders with signage stating “NO ALCOHOL BEYOND THIS POINT”. Neglecting to do so will be subjected to a fine and any chance of future events at our State beaches.
  5. If the above provisions (#1, #2, #3, #4) need to be enforced by a Peace Officer, the picnic group is liable for the cost of the Officer’s overtime rate of time and one-half under authority of Title 14 CCR 4301 (j).
  6. All other park regulations are in effect.

My signature verifies that I have read and agree to all waiver conditions listed above. I realize that failure to adhere to these limitations may lead to a peace officer giving citations and possible early termination of my event permit.

___________________________________ __________ ____________

Signature                                                                                  Title                    Date

Group Name: ___________________________________________________________________

Date of Event: _____________________________________________________

Time alcohol will be served : _______________ to ________________

Adults (21 or over)_______

Return this waiver form and fee to: _______ State Beach

Attn: …



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