The biggest day of food, commercials, and football is here! As millions of Americans prepare to host and attend parties for the big game, many may be unaware of the risks they may be taking. It’s important to plan a party that is both fun and safe for all guests. Most hosts know to make sure no one is too drunk to drive but the fact is, a bad bratwurst could bring just as many risks as too many beers.
Many party hosts will serve food in their home that is prepared by someone other than themselves. That means that they will put themselves at risk for a lawsuit by just feeding their guests.
Whether the food served comes from your kitchen, a pizza delivery truck, or a five-star caterer, if you serve it, you could be liable if anyone gets sick. Even a simple neighborhood potluck could have disastrous results for the host if someone is stricken with food-poisoning. Here are some tips to protect your party on game day:
Study the Host Playbook and Do Your Homework: When hosting a party, individuals should look to the liability portion of their homeowners or renters insurance policy to protect them if they are sued and found liable for an accident involving a guest who drank or got sick after consuming food at their home. Consumers should regularly review their liability coverage limits to ensure they are adequately covered should an accident or illness occur.
Watch What You Eat and Feed Others: Even if food is prepared outside your home by a caterer, another guest, a local deli or the neighborhood pizza joint, YOU could be held liable if someone becomes ill from consuming it on your property. Make sure that you check food and don’t put anything out that you suspect may be undercooked, spoiled or contaminated. Use only reputable food purveyors. Follow proper food-handling, heating/cooling and storage recommendations. When in doubt, throw it out.
Know the Rules (Your State Laws and Statutes): In many states, party hosts can be held liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. Many courts have found hosts liable for damages their party guests cause as a result of consuming alcohol and then driving motor vehicles. Many states have also enacted statutes that can be interpreted as mandating non-commercial social host liability. So, if a guest or third party is injured in an accident that is related to alcohol consumption and the drinking can be linked to you, you could be held responsible for the payment of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and — in the worst case — claims for wrongful death resulting in huge monetary settlements. A discussion on this with your insurance agent ahead of time can be very helpful.
Send the Party into Overtime: If necessary, encourage guests to stay after the game is over to enjoy some non-alcoholic beverages and safe, filling food to sober up before driving home. Immediately after the game is one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road.
Make the Party an “Away Game”: Host your party at a restaurant or a local sports bar that has a liquor license, rather in a home to decrease your liability. Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to discreetly monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
Call for a Car, Get a Room, or Have a Slumber Party: Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
Just Say No: Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated. Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end. Stay alert and always remember your responsibilities as a host. You might also consider hiring an off-duty police officer or professional bouncer to discreetly monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
Consider an Umbrella Policy: While partygoers and hosts alike should act responsibly and know their limits, consumers need to acknowledge that most risks cannot be entirely eliminated. But planning ahead and learning about what’s involved in hosting a reception is the best defense. Purchasing a personal “umbrella” liability policy — providing $1 million or more in additional coverage over the limit of a standard homeowners or renters policy — may be a prudent move for the frequent party host.