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Holiday Parties: Festive Fun or A Legal Nightmare?

December 14, 2013 Blog,Premises Liability

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?  While the holidays are a time for fun and revelry, homeowners and business owners alike should be wary of potential legal landmines when hosting events at their homes or places  of business.

Unfortunately, with even one small mishap, a festive gathering can turn into a legal nightmare. With this in mind, when holding holiday gatherings at your property, it is important to take safety and liabilities issues into account. How to Avoid Getting Sued

When hosting events, both home and business owners face thorny issues related to alcohol consumption and social hosting, as well as premises liability claims which can arise from  slip and fall incident  and other accidents such as falling objects, dog bites and much more.

Property owners owe varying responsibilities to people on their property, — depending on the legal category of the person involved — including: licensees, invitees and trespassers. The greatest duty is to those who are considered “invitees.” Slip and Fall” accidents are one of the most common forms of premises liability injury, and conditions that may lead to such accidents — such as wet floors, uneven steps or floors, falling objects or inadequate security – are often preventable. Property Owner Duties and Responsibilities

Another big concern  during the holiday season is alcohol consumption. Serious legal issues arise when social hosts serve alcohol to intoxicated guests, especially  if they cause injuries to themselves or others.  Some states have enacted laws which hold party hosts liable for injuries caused by intoxicated guests. Host Liability Report

The laws of social hosting vary by state – with some states limiting this variety of liability to hosts who provide alcohol to minors.

With these issues in mind, experts recommend careful pre-party planning, offering some tips for holiday hosts/employers:

  • It is not unusual for partygoers to take a fall. Home and business owners should take precautions and inspect their home or business from potential dangers – such as loose stairs or broken appliances.
  • Additionally, examine your holiday decorations.  Avoid flammable holiday décor and stow away any sharp objects.
  • Keep the cocktail limit low – two maximum — or better yet don’t offer alcohol at all, which is the ideal way to minimize risk.  Alcohol often triggers claims of sexual harassment or inappropriate or racist comments — however the biggest concern when liquor is served: that someone will drive home drunk and hurt or even kill someone.
  • Have food available at all times and stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends.
  • Offer a variety of fun, non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Hold your party off-site – such as at a  licensed restaurant,  which would be considered the provider of alcohol and take responsibility for cutting someone off when they’ve had too much to drink.
  • Don’t provide easy access to alcohol. If the party is outside a licensed establishment, hire someone to serve alcohol — don’t allow event attendees to help themselves.
  • Hold a lunch or breakfast party. Daytime parties discourage heavy or pre-drinking.
  • Have a well thought out plan for those who have had too much to drink. Offer overnight accommodations, transportation such as a taxi service or designated drivers.
  • Invite the entire family. People are less prone to over-drink if kids and family are in tow.

Tips to Avoid Legal Pitfalls

While there is no way to completely avoid risks, don’t let that prevent you from hosting a festive shindig. With foresight and careful planning, you can  mitigate risks, minimize liability and help ensure that your friends or employees enjoy and fun and lively holiday gathering. Happy Holidays – and enjoy the season!