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Think Twice Before Hosting That Holiday Party


Often times when we think of the holidays, we immediately imagine festive decorations, comforting food and quality time with the family. Visions of red sweaters and pine scented candles soon give way to picturing all the big holiday parties we may attend this year. But what about hosting your own holiday event? Although party planning encompasses the proper catering, music and décor, it also involves deciding how you’ll be spreading “holiday cheer,” and more often than not, that includes serving some type of alcoholic beverages. So, before you start preparing for the big event, there are a few key things you need to know.

Overall, the safety of your guests should 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 the big day:

  • The United States Department of Labor states that holding an office holiday party with improper use of alcohol can make employers vulnerable to liability under tort, workers’ compensation, or other laws. If you’re throwing a company holiday party, you should first take precautions to prevent any risks and financially protect your business by making sure you have the proper insurance.
  • Forty-four states (including Florida) have enacted liquor liability laws. These laws make it possible for a plaintiff to hold those who serve alcohol to an intoxicated or underage person responsible for any damage or injury caused by these same individuals after they leave the party.
  • Liquor liability laws were originally intended to apply to taverns, bars, and other establishments selling and serving alcohol. However, the liability laws have expanded over time to include “social hosts” (i.e. those holding a holiday party in their home or business) in some states giving them some exposure to the risk of liability for serving alcohol.
  • When business owners host a holiday party and serve alcohol as part of the festivities, liquor liability can be covered by their commercial general liability (CGL) policy. However, it is always best to check with your insurance agent or broker first.

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).

Therefore, here are 4 simple tips to ensure you don’t get into any trouble when throwing your holiday party this year:

  1. Limit alcohol at your holiday party through a ticketing process or onsite bartender.
  2. Designate one or two employees to watch employees and ensure that no one is excessively drinking, acting inappropriately or about to drive home while intoxicated.
  3. Offer car service or Ubers for employees to utilize at no cost if they are driving home from the party after drinking.
  4. No alcohol is to be present in any home, event space where minors are home having a party. Ensure that there is adult oversight at all times. No exceptions!

Managing Partner Michael Pike spoke to CBS12 WPEC about Party Liability and what viewers need to know entering the holiday season. Watch the segment here: https://cbs12.com/news/local/holiday-party-liability

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