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Spring is sending out new shoots of grass and homeowners are outside sprucing the home place up for a season of happy outdoor entertaining. Perhaps you’ve only just put the finishing touches on your outdoor kitchen and cannot wait to hold your first backyard bash. Are you really ready? (This is a trick question. Think it through carefully and answer only after you’ve read the paragraphs below.)
You have several families over for the first barbeque party of the season. The beers are cold and the wine spritzers are putting smiles on everybody’s faces including those of the hosts. Perhaps you don’t notice that Grizelda has had seven spritzers and is teetering a bit in her flip flops. Maybe you don’t happen to see Shamika’s toddler waddling off toward the unattended swimming pool. Maybe you’re in for a costly and devastating lawsuit.
When you are a social host, you have certain criminal and civil responsibilities. Just as a tavern owner has the responsibility to not over-serve his guests, so have you. You should thoroughly understand this: if accidents happen during or after your party, you can be held liable for damages in many states.
Forty-three states across the Nation have social host liability laws and, unless you live in one of the following states, you may be held responsible for injuries which happen to your guests. The states ofArkansas,California,Delaware,District of Columbia,Hawaii,Kansas,Kentucky,Maryland,Oklahoma,South Dakota,Tennessee,West VirginiaandVirginiado not have social host liability laws. Nevertheless, even if you live in one of these states, you still have a moral obligation to look out for the welfare of people you invite into your home.
There are a thousand and one things which might happen at your party. Perhaps a touch football game turns into a fist-fight. Perhaps somebody gets food poisoning. Maybe Shamika’s little girl drops off into the swimming pool unnoticed. These are horrible scenarios, but you, as a homeowner, must be prepared.
Your homeowner’s policy may cover some of the injuries and/or injuries mentioned above. It may also pay for your legal defense if there is a lawsuit, however you should understand your liability thoroughly before you plan that party. Speak to your insurance agent and determine what exposure you’re actually facing.
If you’re planning a wedding or other event, your agent may suggest you purchase an umbrella policy in order to cover you over and above your homeowner’s policy. He might also suggest an endorsement which will cover you if your event is hosted somewhere other than your home. (The wedding reception you’re planning at the city park, for example.)
As you plan your party, be sure you’ve covered all your bases. Look carefully for hazards on the property itself then warn your guests of them when they arrive. Make sure there is adequate lighting. Remember to warn guests of “attractive nuisances” like that swimming pool or your trampoline – remind guests to watch their little ones at all times.
Be sure to offer non-alcoholic beverage and always serve food of some kind to off-set the effects of adult beverages. Be prepared with designated drivers who can transport guests home if they have had too much fun. Finally, as responsible hosts, limit your own alcohol intake so that you can better monitor the condition of your guests.
Planning a memorable party involves planning for more than food, decorations and the guest list. You have an additional responsibility to your guests and to your own family. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.