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12/31/2012 - Ring in the new year liability-free


Those holding holiday parties should know about potential liability concerns related to such events.

As 2012 comes to a close and 2013 makes its entrance, many people will spend their first hours of the year by hosting parties for their friends and loved ones. However, if party organizers aren't careful and something happens during the celebration, they could be spending the better half of the new year dealing with a lawsuit brought against them by someone who was injured.

Robert Rusbuldt, president and CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, noted that while it may seem unusual for a friend or relative to sue them, the medical costs they experience may be so exorbitant that they have no other recourse.

"Hosts should be aware that if someone drives drunk or becomes sick after consuming food at a holiday party, the host could actually be liable," said Rusbuldt.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in six Americans will get some type of food poisoning each year. Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of education and research at IIABA, indicated that even though the food that's served may come from a restaurant or catering service, because party hosts are the ones that made it available, they're the ones that could be brought to court.

1. Review insurance information. In addition to knowing what their state laws and statutes are as they pertain to litigation, IIABA says party hosts should review their homeowners insurance plan to see if they're sufficiently covered. Alternatively, they may want to obtain general liability insurance, which deals exclusively with issues involving matters that they may be responsible for, such as if someone is injured on their property after slipping and falling.

2. Rent a banquet facility. Something else party hosts may want to consider is renting out a banquet hall or making arrangements to have the New Year's bash at a restaurant. This may be particularly advisable if alcohol is being served. Should someone be involved in an accident after consuming alcohol, this can limit their liability.

3. Be aware of who is drinking. Hosts can ensure that won't be partially responsible if someone is involved in a drunk driving accident by taking note of who has been consuming more than several drinks. IIABA says people shouldn't hesitate to ensure that these guests are cut off after a certain number of beverages. In order to enforce these rules, hiring a bouncer so that they can be removed from the party if they refuse may be wise.

Alternatively, hosts may want to make an executive decision early on and not have hard drinks available at all. There are a variety of drinks that can be served to replace alcohol that can be just as enjoyable, such as sparkling cider or non-alcoholic beer.

Perhaps due to greater awareness about drunk driving and the consequences of it, recent statistics suggest that fewer people may be getting behind the wheel in an inebriated state. According to 2011 data from the National High Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 9,800 drunk driving fatalities last year. While even one life lost due to driver intoxication is too much, this marks the first time that drunk driving fatalities has been below 10,000, Mothers Against Drunk Driving notes.

4. Make arrangements for the party's aftermath. If hosts insist on making alcohol available, they can still reduce their liability through alternative means. IIABA says this includes calling a cab to take individuals who've had one too many home, or having a guest stay the night if the arrangements can't be made.


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