Limiting your liability when it comes to alcohol
July 15, 2014
If you host a party and serve alcohol, you can be held responsible for the actions of your guests, even after they’ve left your house. So when and to what extent are you liable for the actions of others when alcohol is involved?
That’s the topic a pair of local attorneys tackled during a free Lunchtime Learning event Wednesday, July at the PC MARC.
Anne Cameron, an attorney with Miller Law Group, and Sam Adams, of Adams Davis P.C., explained the issues from all sides she’s a former prosecutor turned defender, he’s a plaintiff’s lawyer.
Together, Cameron and Adams provided viewpoints from all sides of the issues. Even law enforcement’s views were represented as Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk attended and contributed to the discussion.
Among the key points:
- Carry a lot of insurance, particularly if you have significant financial assets — "We’re all just one decision away from having something bad happen," Adams said.
- Homeowner’s insurance policies have lots of exclusions. Call your agent and get written confirmation regarding liability related to houseguests and alcohol. Add an endorsement or rider onto the policy, if need be.
- When hosting a large party, hire a caterer to serve any alcohol. This will shift liability for the actions of intoxicated guests to the caterer, who carries the proper insurance in case anything happens.
- Don’t serve or make alcohol available to minors, even if you’re confining them to your home. Though things may usually turn out fine, when something goes wrong "it’s catastrophic," Cameron said. The law is clear if you furnish alcohol to minors and they hurt someone, you will be held responsible.
- Always try to be "the reasonable person," Adams said. Utah is a "comparative fault" state when it comes to lawsuits claiming negligence, meaning that the actions of a defendant can be offset, partially or fully, by the actions of the plaintiff.
If you know your uncle is a drunk, don’t invite him. If you expect everyone to be drinking, collect car keys as people arrive. If a guest is intoxicated, offer to call a cab or let the guest sleep over. "The rule in my world is just be careful," Adams said.