The holiday season is upon us. With it comes celebration. Much of the celebration involves alcohol. As the holiday season approaches, we will be doing a few articles on liquor liability, often referred to as dram shop rules.
To begin, anyone that will be hosting a party should be aware of the possible liability associated with intoxicated guests.
This liability can come in many forms from mishaps in the home to DWI auto accidents to good old fashioned holiday brawls to name just a few.
The liability of the homeowner is clear in these cases where the guests are over-served. This can stem from the atmosphere set by the party host in serving shots, serving up beer pong tables (or other drinking games), and of course the annual holiday drinking contest.
However, liability may arise from lesser offenses. For instance, an already intoxicated guest should not continue to be served. This can put the host in a bit of pickle in some cases where the guest takes offense leading to the aforementioned brawl. At the same time, throwing the guest out risks putting a drunken driver on the road leading to the aforementioned DWI auto accident.
Keep in mind too that under New Mexico law, both the over-served guest and any innocent victims the guest may harm may have a claim against the host. There are a number of fairly recent New Mexico cases that establish clear liability for a host that recklessly over-serves his or her guests.
So what should a host do to avoid liability for holiday parties gone awry? First, and most obviously, try to keep the party from going awry to begin with. This can be done by setting a responsible tone for the party. Clearly, the beer pong table is inviting disaster.
Related to this precaution, if you simply cannot host a party without a beer pong table, take the keys from your guests at the beginning of the party. Of course, this will not avoid the fisticuffs that on occasion accompanies beer pong. But it will avoid a DWI accident.
Next, keep an eye on your guests. It is often pretty obvious who has overindulged. Sometimes it is not so you will need to be on your toes. And avoid setting the stage for obvious overdrinking. Once again this relates to shots, beer pong, quarters and other drinking games.
Most importantly, do not allow your guests to drive home drunk. Make sure they have a designated driver. This means a sober driver, not a driver than is less drunk. If there is no designated driver, take their keys if you can.
Giving them a little coffee to sober them up is not good enough. That simply gives them an edge to their intoxication. As such, if you are going to have a drunken fest, be prepared for overnight guests.
Finally, if you intend to host a party with alcohol, you might want to check up on your homeowner‘s insurance. Even if you take all possible precautions, and even if you act completely responsibly, accidents happen. And even if in the end, you are found completely innocent of wrongdoing, a lawsuit could be financially crippling due to attorney fees. Homeowner‘s insurance coverage should protect you from this. However, it will not protect you from liability for reckless conduct.
In short, if you are going to have a holiday party, be responsible. To do otherwise, could be extremely costly to you and your family.