If you plan on being the holiday host or hostess with the mostest this season, here’s something you should know.
If your mostest includes alcohol and your guests overindulge, you could potentially be on the hook if they wreck their car and kill or injure someone. As a matter of fact, you could be held liable if they trip over a tree root while stumbling home and chip a tooth.
In North Carolina you can be held responsible for whatever happens to your drunken guests after they leave your party. If it’s bad enough, you could find yourself ringing in the New Year with unwanted legal fees and court costs.
You might think your friend wouldn’t sue you over their own drunken negligence. Perhaps not. But those they injure sure could – especially if they had a good North Carolina personal injury lawyer. If my client was seriously injured because of the negligence of another, I’d go after each and every negligent party I could find.
Whether it’s a holiday party, Super Bowl party, or a back-yard brunch, you don’t want to be held liable because your guest caused personal injury. I’ve seen these types of situations ruin lives in certain instances.
How Is a Party Host Liable in NC?
Liability extends to anyone who provides alcohol to guests. North Carolina law says that when an intoxicated guest causes an injury or accident, the injured person may be able to seek damages from the host if they:
- Provided or served alcohol
- Knew or even should have known the person served was drunk
- Knew the person would be driving after drinking alcohol served at the party
Let’s say, for example, you had a holiday open house at your new home in Winston-Salem. A guest who lives in Greensboro is among the first to arrive and the last to leave. You really haven’t paid much attention to how many times you’ve refilled his glass. When he’s ready to drive home, it doesn’t occur to you that he may be impaired, because he seems coherent and alert. And besides, you assume that he’s responsible enough to sober up before driving back to Greensboro. On his drive home he crosses over the center line of Route 421 at Willow Bend and crashes head on with a mini van carrying a young family. Thankfully no one is killed, but all of them sustained significant injuries. The driver was blinded by the airbag chemicals, the mom broke her back in three places, and one of the three children in the backseat sustained a severe concussion from which she will never recover.
Don’t think for one minute that family isn’t going to get a good North Carolina personal injury lawyer to try to sue him and you for everything they could possibly get. With all the medical bills they’ll have to pay – and significant time out of work for mom and dad for their injuries – they’ll need every penny that’s potentially coming to them.
Do you really want that responsibility on your shoulders? Unless you have a whopping umbrella policy, you could possibly lose just about everything you own. Life for everyone – including you – will never be the same.
It’s just not worth the risk.
If you’re planning a holiday party this season, here’s a list you’ll want to check twice before your guests enjoy that first glass of holiday cheer.
10 Ways to Minimize Your Liability When Hosting a Holiday Party
- Consider using a professional bartender who is used to recognizing early signs of drunkenness.
- Serve food with proteins and fats which can help absorb the effects of alcohol.
- Offer a variety of soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water in addition to alcohol.
- Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before you expect guests to begin leaving.
- Have an Uber, Lyft, taxi number, or app handy or at least one or more designated driver services throughout North Carolina (some will even take the guest’s car home). Why not provide a designated driver for them if your guests live close by?
- Ask one or two of your guests to monitor the crowd for potential problems and to take the initiative to offer rides to those who seem to need it.
- Make sure your guests know you want them to have fun, but to act responsibly.
- If you see a guest that’s suspect, take their keys if you have to. (Remember friends don’t let friends drive drunk.)
- Encourage your guests to wear their seatbelts while driving home. If they’re involved in a car crash, they’ll be better protected.
- Be open to overnight stays if an intoxicated guest cannot get a ride home. An air mattress is cheaper than a lawsuit.