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Be A Common-Sense Host

Holidays and special events often include celebrations that bring together families and friends in homes across the country. Food, fun, conversations and spirits flow generously. Unfortunately, such celebrations may be accompanied by injuries and accidents, especially when alcoholic drinks are involved. Increased drinking leads to an increased chance for a personal tragedy and the consequences can be substantial.

Hosts are given the credit for the enjoyment that their guests experience at a party. On the dark side, party-givers are also asked to bear partial or full responsibility for two categories of losses:

  • Loss or injury to guests while on the host's premises
  • Loss or injury involving guests who cause damage or injury to others

Hosts owe the highest level of responsibility to persons who are invited to a residence. Therefore, they face the possibility of being held accountable for injury or loss suffered by guests. With regard to the second category, a particularly troublesome issue is liability for guests who are on the way home from a gathering. In other words, hosts may be sued for contributing to losses caused by alcohol-impaired guests.

Although hosts can be found legally culpable for accidents or losses; there would have to be strong evidence to support a host being held financially responsible, since any involvement is indirect. For example, Jane provides drinks to Barrie, who then plows into the side of Chris' car and garage.

While a homeowners policy may offer coverage if a host has substantially contributed to a loss, an insurer may be able to deny a claim for a number of reasons, including:

  • A gathering involves the host making an income
  • The involvement of paid bartenders
  • The party is thrown as a fundraising event
  • A host's knowledge that the guest was impaired and continued to serve liquor
  • The host failed to decide for impaired guests (designated drivers, taxis, lodging, etc.)
  • Local or state law(s) related to providing alcohol

Hosts who take their responsibility seriously are those who make sure that parties are thrown responsibly, are done as a social (rather than business) event, and those who avoid actions that reduce chances of loss.

With regard to the premises, hosts can do the following to increase the safety and to protect the property of their guests:

  • Keep guests' coats and other property in a central, secure area
  • Correct any issues in the home (i.e. repair broken steps or uneven surfaces, tack down loose rugs)
  • Keep pets away from guests
  • Bar access to kitchen if dangerous cooking processes are used (such as deep fat fryers)
  • Make sure bathrooms are well-lit and free of issues that might cause loss or injury
  • Make sure that stairs and all interior and exterior paths and safe for use
  • Check smoke and fire alarms and make sure any safety equipment is in working order
  • Keep cell phones charged for use in emergencies
  • Have auxiliary lighting available

With regard to the condition of guests as they leave or when party ends:

  • The event should include food, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Control the party's liquor supply, ending service of liquor during the latter part of the event
  • Monitor guests to check for signs of impairment, cutting off liquor if necessary
  • Consider taking car keys and arranging for taxi or ride-sharing services to transport guests
  • Make the option available for impaired guests to remain at the residence overnight, using extra rooms or other sleeping areas
  • Arrange for designated drivers with each pair or group of guests

No celebration should end up with losses, injuries or lawsuits. Make the holidays or special occasions fun and safe with proper preparations. Also, be sure that you carry the right insurance protection in the event it is needed.

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