How to Avoid Party Liability

Invitations? Check. Food and drinks? Check. Clean the house? Check. Brush up on social host and party liability laws?

When you plan a party, a few checklist items feel like a given. Invitations, food and drinks, and making sure your house isn’t a total disaster before guests arrive are a few that come to mind. But odds are, “review premises liability laws” doesn’t tend to make the list for most people.

This is an understandable omission but not one that should continue. After all, nothing brings a party to a screeching halt like an injury (or a potential personal injury lawsuit). This is something that a Timberlake and League client, Joshua, clearly understood when he contacted us with a question.

"Am I Responsible for the Guests at My Party?"

Joshua reached out to us with exciting plans to host a 30th wedding anniversary dinner for his parents at his house. He was expecting 20-30 guests and planned on having music, catered food, and cocktails flowing throughout the night. His guests would all be over 21, but he was concerned that some partygoers might overindulge.

To avoid having to impose a two-drink limit, he wanted to know if he might be responsible for the actions of a guest after they leave the party.

So to simplify this step on your future party checklists, we’ll tell you what we told Joshua. While laws regarding host responsibilities vary from state to state, our answers are focused on Alabama social host liability law.

Don’t Allow Underage Drinking

Even if you’ve only invited people over the age of 21, we know that the best-laid plans can change. Therefore, you should know that Alabama says no one under 21 can legally possess or consume alcohol under any circumstances, even in a private residence or with parental consent.¬†

Additionally, the Alabama Civil Damages Act holds party hosts liable if alcohol is provided to anyone under 21 years old and that person is injured or injures someone else while intoxicated. Parents, children, and others injured by the intoxicated individual can all pursue claims against the host.

Social host liability and negligent entrustment.

friends laugh together at a holiday partyIn most cases, you are not liable for the actions of your intoxicated guests. If a guest drinks at your holiday party and hurts themselves falling off the porch or deck because they drank too much, they cannot seek compensation for their injuries.

However, you can be liable for the actions of that same drunk guest if you lend something like a car or a firearm and someone is injured as a result. Legally, this is referred to as “negligent entrustment.” It basically means you loaned something potentially dangerous to someone when you shouldn’t have, and they caused an injury.

For example, negligent entrustment states that you could be held liable if you allow an intoxicated party guest to borrow your car to go for a beer run and they get into a car accident that injures someone.

Avoid premises liability issues.

Party host tells guests about trip hazards in backyard to avoid party liabilityWith or without alcohol, premises liability holds a landowner liable for injuries suffered by anyone on the premises. Luckily, avoiding this legal issue is pretty simple Рall you have to do is warn guests of any hazards on the property.

Examples of common hazards are broken deck rails, trip hazards, wet floors, and broken steps. As the property owner, you must identify and repair potential risks or warn guests with posted signs and make sure they have accurate information regarding the risks.

Now that we’ve explained how social hosts are and are not responsible for partygoers, here are a few simple things to add to your next party planning checklist to ensure you’re covered.

What to add to your party checklist.

So next time you’re throwing a party, be sure to avoid party liability by implementing these few extra safety precautions. After all, a social host deserves to get to enjoy their own party rather than worrying about what might happen. Your guests will have fun, and you’ll rest easy knowing you’ve done everything you can to keep others safe.