Hosting a Holiday Party At Your Home

What legal obligations do you have to anybody that comes to your house and is injured while on the premises? What responsibility do you have for the actions of guests at your party if they hurt somebody else?

After a very quiet 2020 holiday season we are back in the mood for some festive cheer and good ole’ fashioned holiday parties. While making sure you have enough eggnog and snacks for your guests is important, there are a few other precautions you should think about too.

  1. Make sure your homeowners insurance policy is in effect: the last thing you want is to find out that your insurance was canceled because you missed a payment leaving you personally responsible for the injuries your guest suffered after falling on your icy front stoop.
  2. Add a disclaimer or waiver: if you are using Evite or another similar online invitation maker you can add the terms of your waiver or release into the evite. Use language such as “I release the owner from any responsibility if I’m injured on their premises” or “I release them of any responsibilities if my actions cause harm to a third party”. Your guests can check a box accepting the terms when they RSVP.
  3. Make a fresh assessment of what hazards exist on your property: maybe you know there is a broken handrail, a missing step or loose rocks. Make a critical self-assessment and when you come across any dangerous conditions fix them in advance to the party.
  4. Have you have been put on notice of a hazard by your homeowner’s insurance or HOA after an inspection? If one of your guests is injured because of that hazard, you may face excess liability and punitive damages for ignoring a clear-cut warning of a dangerous condition.
  5. Consider the lighting at your party if you are hosting it outside and there are dark areas: illuminate as much as possible so people can see where they are going. A person that comes to your home for the first time may not know that you have steps in a poorly lit area and may fall down those steps without even realizing they were there.
  6. Be mindful of your dog’s behavior: If you know you have a dog that has a propensity to get nervous and attack people when they are at the house because it has happened before you, need to take proper precautions. Plan to have your dog elsewhere for the night or safely closed in a room somewhere where nobody is going to go. If you are letting your four-legged friend roam around when you know that your dog has a history of biting people, and someone gets bitten you will be on the hook for that too.
  7. Be a good friend! Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. If you are serving alcohol to your guests don’t be afraid to cut someone off when they had too much to drink. Georgia’s social host liability law may hold you liable for damages if your intoxicated guest causes a car accident after leaving the party.

Take some reasonable precautions before wetting your friends and family’s appetite for celebration.

Personal injury attorney Bruce Hagen and criminal lawyer Ray Giudice discuss drunk driving during the holidays and legal precautions for your next holiday party on the latest episode of Your Day In Court podcast. Enjoy this mini-clip or listen to the entire episode of Your Day In Court at Xtra 106.3 or on any of your favorite podcast platforms.