The Party is Over

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
With Halloween right around the corner, I thought I’d take a few minutes to remind homeowners about liability issues associated with hosting parties.  Unlike a decade or so ago, today’s host or hostess has to worry about a lot more than whether their guests have a good time.  They also need to be concerned about what occurs during and after the festivities.  At least they do if they don’t want to wind up being eaten alive by lawsuits. 

      1.       The Host with the Most – While you may consider your friends, family and business associates the salt of the earth, that doesn’t mean if they wind up injured in some way while coming or going from your party that they won’t seek compensation. Suddenly that smiling guest will be no longer be smiling.  But perhaps their attorney will be when you get served with a lawsuit.   Whether you win the suit in court or not, expect the process including court costs and legal fees to cost you plenty. 

      2.       A Few Too Many If you serve alcoholic beverages at your party, this increases the likelihood for liability.  Especially if a guest has a few too many, you could be held liable if they wind up in an accident on the way home, or even were they to trip and fall while on your property.  The worst thing is that many homeowners aren’t even aware that they can be held liable in the event of an alcohol-related accident involving a guest.  Don’t find out the hard way.  If you plan on hosting a party at your home or office, take the time before the holidays to review your liability coverage with your insurance agent.  Like it or not, it’s up to you to decide when to say when to your guests, as well as preventing them from driving should they become intoxicated.  Better to call them a cab then to wind up having to call your attorney because you got served a lawsuit a few days later.  Better still to provide a designated driver or put a guest up for the night than to let them loose when they are obviously incapacitated.

Image courtesy flickr
A Party Platter to Die For – Whether you make the food yourself or have your party catered, there is always a chance that a guest could be sickened by what they eat at your event.  Especially today when many people have food allergies, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee that nobody will have an adverse reaction to what’s being served at your party.  Whether they are allergic to nuts, gluten or dairy, those afflicted don’t necessarily need to come into contact with an allergen to have an allergy attack.  All that has to happen is for a guest to move a serving spoon from one bowl to another, or a chef to slice a loaf of bread with the same knife used to chop nuts and you could have a problem.  Make sure you know if any of the guests on your list have a food allergy before you find out the hard way.  Also make sure any caterers you hire are briefed and insured before your event takes place.  Another option is to host your party at a restaurant as opposed to your home or office.  This way any liability issues will be theirs as opposed to yours.

      4.      How Safe is Your Home or Office? – Another issue with which hosts need to be cognizant is for the safety of their guests.  This concern covers a lot if ground, since the ground guests walk on from the time they park their car to the time they get back home could come to haunt you.  Speaking of homes, if you plan on hosting a party at your home, before the event takes place make sure you police the area carefully.  Are there any obstacles or obstructions that could inadvertently trip a guest?  Is your walkway properly lighted?  Do you have any children or pets that could get underfoot?  Where is your dog, in the backyard or a bedroom?  If so, what happens if a guest goes out back or accidently lets your dog out?  While trivial issues like policing the area for toys and rolling up and storing throw rugs seem insignificant now, believe me when I say that should you be dragged into court because of a suit, the opposing attorney will most definitely paint these neglected items in a different light. 

Image courtesy flickr
      5.      Why Sexual Harassment Complaints Multiply during the Holidays – No matter where you hold your office party, beware of the fact that any time you serve alcohol at a business function, there is an increased risk of sexual harassment suits.  That’s because alcohol loosens the lips and causes employees to say and do things that can later come to haunt any business owner.  It can also cause bad blood between coworkers that can seriously impair productivity at the office.  Before you host your next office party, it behooves you to provide both written and oral instructions on what is and is not considered proper behavior. This should even include what is not considered appropriate costumes to wear at your company Halloween party.  It also wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye open during the party to nip any altercations in the bud before they later come to haunt you.

      6.      It’s all in good fun until someone gets hurt. – If you plan on hosting a party of any sort, while you can hope for the best, it always helps to be prepared for the worst.  That means having a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher handy.  What starts off as a minor incident or injury could rapidly escalate into something far more serious in a hurry.  If plan on barbecuing in the backyard or deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving, any time there are open flames involved in food preparation, you need to establish a cordon to keep your guests a safe distance away. 

      7.      Every Party Needs a PooperWhile you don’t have to be a party pooper to host a safe holiday party, you do need to be aware of the potential hazards to your property and your guests.  If not, it won’t be long before the party is over for you.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on liability insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Parties with alcohol can be fun but can also lead to mishaps and injuries. Be careful this holiday season.


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