New Years Eve party

Liquor liability and you

When planning your New Year's Eve party this year it would be wise to consider the implications of liquor liability. This is a time when the cup can flow over, right up to an impaired driver.

You can be held partially responsible for actions of your guests after they have consumed liquor at your premises. It is important that you do what you can to limit the possibility of your guest having an accident while under the influence of liquor after they have left your home.

The courts have held a host liable for the portion of liquor that was served to a person who then drives to another location and drinks more liquor. This liability depends on what you have done to prevent the person from overindulging and how you did contribute to that person's condition. You cannot control a person's actions completely so you cannot totally avoid all chance of this happening.

Steps you can take to reduce your risk of a claim and help with your defense if things do go sideways could include:

  • If you send out invitations then do note that a taxi service is available for guests who prefer not to drive home. Put the name and number of the taxi service on the invitation.
  • As guests arrive have them drop their keys in a basket. The keys are to be returned at the discretion of the host. Do be aware that often a person has a spare key hidden under their vehicle. Few people will realize how inebriated they are and might find themselves to be quite clever in avoiding asking for their key. This situation does require the host to be diligent in noting potential drunk drivers.
  • Be prepared to have a few overnight guests if the situation occurs that a party goer needs to "rest". It is far better that this person retires early and misses the stroke of midnight versus leaving your party while under the influence.
  • Having food to consume helps to distract the drinkers. Consider a menu with less salty foods. Pass trays around and encourage the guests to snack frequently.
  • The bar should be supervised. The bartender should recognize when a person is reaching intoxication and adjust the amount of alcohol for successive drinks. A good bartender will start mixing "specials" and have the guest feeling favoured rather then criticized.
  • Specific liquor liability policies can be purchased. Talk to your agent or broker. This option is becoming more common.
  • More claims than a liquor liability could result from a party. Consider the possibility of a slip and fall by one of your guests. Police the party area for possible hazards. Some examples could be a small area rug on a well-polished floor, fragile decorations on a table top, or serving coffee which is piping hot. Be sure burning candles are set well back from any traffic areas and in inflammable holders. Stairways should be clear and the sidewalks bare of snow.

Always be a aware that you have a high standard of duty to keep your invited guests safe.