Legal issues are rarely considered in party planning, despite the many potential areas of liability. Knowing common pitfalls can help ensure all guests have fun, arrive home safely and avoid liability for the host.
Dram shop laws are designed to hold bars and restaurants accountable for over-serving guests. Some states apply the same type of liability to personal residences. This means that if someone is served alcohol at someone’s home and then drives and injures someone or personal property, the owner of the home may be held liable. If you’re throwing a party at your home, encourage your guests to drink responsibly and avoid driving, and monitor any guests who appear to have had too much to drink to help them find a safe way home. Firms like The Law Offices of Gregg Durlofsky can advise of dram shop laws specific to your jurisdiction.
Homeowners and their insurance are responsible for known hazards on their property. In the event there is a condition in the area of the party that could be hazardous for guests, hosts should try to minimize exposure of guests to the area. For example, loose boards on a deck, exposed electrical wires or holes in the lawn should be repaired if possible or clearly marked so guests can safely avoid injury.
Similar to hazards that might be on the property, the interaction of guests with household pets should be planned in advance. Dogs and cats that are otherwise friendly may become overwhelmed by many guests. Not all guests may know how to properly interact with pets and agitate them. Particularly if a pet has a history of biting or injuring people, they should be kept away from party guests to avoid injury to guests and resulting liability.
Food allergies are becoming more widely acknowledged and publicized. Common food allergies like peanuts should be considered in menu planning. If serving food with common allergens, make guests aware of the ingredients. Certainly, if a host is aware of a particular guest’s food allergy, they should make that guest aware of the ingredient so it can be avoided. Undisclosed allergens may cause injury or death to guests and be the base of legal action.
Hosts should be mindful of noise levels to avoid unpleasant consequences. Many communities have regulations regarding outdoor music which may include hours of the day when it is prohibited. Neighbors may also involve authorities if noise rises to levels they find intrusive. Fines or other legal action could result from failure to be mindful and obey regulations. Hosts should consult a qualified attorney to discuss their state and local laws.
Similar to noise, make guests aware of areas that they should not enter, such as a neighbor’s yard or pool. A backyard party can lose fun quickly if the police arrive because guests are trespassing or otherwise mistreating a neighbor’s property.
Suggesting to guests where they can safely park is wise. Towed cars do not make for very happy guests. Additionally, safety issues in parking lots have been linked to premises liability in some jurisdictions.
In addition to avoiding liability, careful thought of the legal issues involved in hosting a party at your home can ensure guests enjoy themselves. Guest safety, local regulations and being mindful of the neighbors are all wise areas to think through in party planning.
This article is from Lizzie Weakley, a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. She enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her four-year-old husky Snowball.