Collins & Collins, P.C.

Hosting a Holiday Party Comes with Some Risks!

There are a number of things to keep in mind when having a holiday party. First and foremost, be responsible. Avoid the drunken bash. Keep and eye on your guests. Do not overserve. And get your insurance up to par.


Albuquerque, NM -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/14/2012 -- The holidays come with much celebration. With celebration, there is quite frequently alcohol. And where there is alcohol, there are often excesses of every kind.

Hosting a holiday party often warms the heart of the hosts and if successful the guests. These get togethers are often long remembered and cherished by all. Then there are those parties that go awry.

Not to be a Grinch, but party hosts should be prepared for the possibility that their parties may come with unexpected consequences. You cannot plan for and avoid every potential hazard. But there are some that not only should plan for but at least in New Mexico, probably have a duty to plan for.

In short, there are numerous potential liability issues associated with booze fueled holiday festivities. The liability to be discussed here is strictly focused on civil liability (i.e. potential personal injury claims). However, there is some potential for criminal liability where minors are involved. This possibility will be left for a separate discussion.

New Mexico, like many states, has dram shop type laws that address the over-service of intoxicated persons. The dram shop laws proper deal with commercial establishments such as bars and restaurants. However, the same principles have been extended to homeowners and other social hosts (collectively “social hosts”) albeit at a lessened standard of care.

So the question becomes, where do homeowners have potential liability and what should they do to protect themselves (and their guests)?

Let’s start with how you protect yourself financially. This is easy. Obtain insurance coverage and at the highest levels suggested by the risks. This would typically be homeowners insurance or a variation thereon such as renters insurance. It might also include event insurance. Finally, for high wealth individuals, a personal liability umbrella policy (PLUP) might be in order.

The risks was included the risks of injuries created by your activities. Risks assessment would also include a careful examination of what is at stake financially. In other words, if you have high income and assets, then you obviously have more to lose than a someone with neither. Your coverage should reflect both sets of risks.

Now that you have insurance, you still need to behave responsibly unless you want to risk a lawsuit and verdict that exceeds your insurance coverage. You might also want to avoid possible punitive damages which risks are deserving of their own discussion even for the aforesaid low income low asset individuals.

Behaving responsibly means a number of things. First and foremost, do not over-serve guests. This may be easier said than done since it is very difficult if not impossible to monitor everyone at a party. However, there are few things that will provide protection.

One would be avoiding creating an atmosphere for excessive drinking such as for instance serving shots and drinking games. Another would be to be aware of obviously intoxicated persons. If you notice a person is drinking excessively then cut them off. Better yet, if you know, avoid inviting those predisposed for this kind of conduct in the first place.

Next, you should do your best to prevent people from drinking and driving as they leave your party. The first set of precautions will help here. In other words, keep them from getting intoxicated and they cannot drive intoxicated. Failing this, make sure they have a designated driver. If this is not possible then plan for them to stay long enough to sober up which may mean an overnight guests.

Keep in mind that drinking and driving is not the only risks associated with overdrinking. Overdrinking also leads to fights and accidents. The fighting is fairly self-explanatory. Accidents come in countless varieties from burns and cuts in the kitchen to head and other injuries from falls. These too can lead to liability.

This article could go on ad nauseam. Suffice it to say that you should be smart when hosting a party. Don’t host a drunken bash. Keep an eye on your guest. And get your homeowners, renters or event insurance up to par. On this last point, keep in mind that you can do everything right and still get sued. Insurance will pay for your attorney to defend a meritless claim. Without it, the legal fees alone could be financially crippling.