On May 4, 2010, the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors approved and passed the Mitchell County Social Host Ordinance. This ordinance was proposed by the Mitchell County Substance Abuse Coalition (MSAC).
To summarize the ordinance, if the host of a social gathering knows or reasonably should have known that alcohol was being consumed by a person under age 21 on their premises or at their social function, they are subject to a fine of at least $500, and up to $1,000 for multiple offenses.
The Mitchell County Sheriff has charged “social hosts” with violation of this ordinance several times and is glad he has this option, according to MSAC. However, the fine would seem trivial compared to the liability exposure of serving alcohol to underage persons.
Although under Iowa Code section 123.49, social hosts generally can’t be held liable for serving alcohol to a guest who then causes an accident while intoxicated, there’s an exception to this rule for circumstances where a social host knowingly serves alcohol to underage guests. Any accident, injury or death caused by an underage drinker can transfer back to the provider of the alcohol.
Awards in these types of lawsuits can be up to 1,000 times higher than the fine stipulated by the Mitchell County ordinance. For people who would rather not expose themselves to this liability, an alcohol-free graduation party would be a safer alternative.