Holiday Parties Can Leave Hosts Open To Lawsuits

6:04 PM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC  --  You just never think about it. Why would you? You have the drinks out, snacks are out and you're mingling.

It's a wonderful, fun holiday party. Everyone's having a great time. And then it happens.

In the middle of the night, the phone rings. One of your friends was in a car wreck, people are hurt, or worse. 

Within weeks, you're in court and what was a memory of a great holiday party becomes marred by tragedy, guilt and perhaps a criminal charge.

It's one of those "it'll never happen to me" stories.

The problem is, it does happen. As a host of a part, you can be held criminally responsible.

"I don't want to scare people from having parties and entertaining and I don't want to scare people from enjoying the holiday season, but you need to be careful about what you serve," attorney Frank Berry explained.

According to the law, if you provide alcohol to your guests and they get drunk and get into an accident, courts can hold you responsible for letting an impaired driver leave your home in a car.

"You don't have to be the 'are you drunk?' police, but you have to be reasonably aware of what's going on in your house," Berry added.

Another thing to keep in mind as host is safety hazards. Your guest is hopefully not going to sue you for tripping over a rug, but a serious fall from a broken deck can force them to sue you to cover their medical bills.

Also, food poisoning. If that meat dish is not cooked well or left out too long and your guests get sick, legally they, can take you to court.

"You just have to be reasonably diligent in making sure that you have a safe environment, safe food, if there's alcoholic beverages, extra diligence is required to make sure that you don't have people out on the road impaired after the party,' said David Daggett, a Winston-Salem attorney.

"The law is reasonable, the law is fair, but the law puts personal responsibility on hosts, on individuals but the standard is generally did you know or should you have known," Daggett added. 

There are some things your homeowners or renters insurance will cover. You will need to check and review your policy.

But again, holiday parties are a time to have fun not worry about lawsuits so, be mindful.

To decrease your liability, Daggett and Berry recommend having more than just alcohol at your party so people can pace themselves.

Have snacks available. Try an activity or keep people busy so they don't fall back on just drinking all night. And do a run through of safety hazzards before and during the party.




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