Memorable (Not Regrettable) Holiday Parties
By Michael L. Smith, JD, RTT
The time from Thanksgiving through the New Year is a popular time for companies and individuals to host parties. I doubt any social host intends for their event to become regrettable, but most of us remember at least one holiday party for all the wrong reasons.
You probably know that commercial establishments that sell alcoholic beverages can be held liable for injuries caused by their intoxicated patrons under dram shop laws. But did you know that most states also impose liability on social hosts when their intoxicated guests injure other people?
Drunken driving can be a problem for social hosts when one of their intoxicated guests injures a third party. This is not the type of holiday memory you wish to create.
If you are planning a holiday party, a social host should consider a few precautions that will make it a safer one:
Stay sober so that they can watch out for guests who might be drinking too much.
- Do not serve alcoholic beverages to minors or guests who are already intoxicated.
- Try to limit the guest list to people you know.
- Consider being the bartender, or hire a bartender to watch out for guests who are drinking too much.
- Never push drinks on a guest.
- Offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages for guests.
- Have plenty of food available, which slows down the consumption of alcohol and slows the effects of alcohol.
- Encourage guests to select a designated driver before the party.
- Suggest that guests take a taxi to your party, which can alleviate parking problems and potentially unsafe drivers.
- Keep the telephone number for a taxi readily available and extra cash on hand to pay for cab fare.
- If necessary, make space available for guests to spend the night at your home or at a local hotel.
- Unfortunately, a social host may be required to cut off an intoxicated guest or strongly suggest that an intoxicated guest not drive home.
While serving alcoholic beverages is a host's biggest risk, it is not the only risk. According to one statistic I reviewed, 1,000 people were injured by falling Christmas trees in 2002. We all need to ensure that our decorations are not outright hazardous - at least until someone invents totally holographic decorations. A social host cannot eliminate all risk entirely, but you can plan parties so that your guests have a memorable experience as opposed to a regrettable experience.
Every article I have read concerning workplace holiday parties says never mix mistletoe and alcohol. Evidently, a word to the wise for party guests is also in order. Every guest should expect that at least a few of the other guests at the party will be co-workers and fellow professionals. We all know that people gossip, so all guests should conduct themselves accordingly. A guest who wants to be included on the guest list again should exercise some restraint to ensure they get that second invitation.
Enjoy your holiday safely.
This guest blog post was written by Michael L. Smith, JD, RRT. He is board certified in health law by The Florida Bar and practices at The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, FL. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for formal legal advice.