Holiday Party Liability
The holidays are upon us and although this year may look a bit different than others, friends and family wishing to get together will undoubtedly find a way to do so. Although Florida Health recommends that everyone refrain from hosting gatherings of more than 10 people, there are no actual travel restrictions currently in the State of Florida. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that there is a lot more to worry about than solely the spread of Covid alone. Before you start preparing for a big event, there are a few key things you need to know.
Overall, the safety of your guests should always be your number #1 priority. Not only because you’re a gracious host, but because of party liability. You may have heard about this kind of responsibility before, but it’s important that you know the real facts before throwing caution to the wind. When hosting a holiday party for family and friends, it is quite common that there will be guests under the legal drinking age of 21, so here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Florida law imposes a duty on social hosts with regards to the consumption of alcohol by guests. Known as the “Open House Party” law, it is a crime for any person 18 years or older to host an “open house party,” which is defined as any social gathering at a home, apartment, etc. if “the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.
- Any person who violates the statute may be charged with a second degree misdemeanor. If the violation results in serious bodily injury or death to the consuming minor, or to a third party as a result of the minor’s consumption, the host may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.
- Florida law ALSO allows a “social host” to be sued by anyone injured as a result of a minor’s intoxication (either by alcohol or illegal drugs).
When you add in Covid into this mix, we are dealing with uncharted waters. Could the same kind of liability apply to those who may have contracted the disease and are able trace it back to a holiday party? Could there potentially be a lawsuit if that person gets sick? Could the party hosts be liable for medical bills? We really don’t yet know, but if the law can be applied to coronavirus in the way it is to alcohol, we could have an entirely new kind of holiday-related claim on our hands.