December 2015 - Hosting a Holiday Party? Understand Your Responsibilities

Christmas dinner About a third of homeowners don’t realize they could be held liable for injuries suffered by their guests, but in New Jersey the State’s social host liability laws say they can be. If you’re planning to host a party this holiday, take a few precautions before sending out your invitations to help limit your risks.

Alcohol-related injuries

Under New Jersey law, an inebriated person cannot hold a host liable for injuries they suffer from a fall, a motor vehicle accident or other incidents; however, a third party injured as a result of the inebriated person’s actions can. The injured third party may be able to seek compensation for medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and the like, and also seek punitive damages from the host or the host’s insurance company.

To diminish your risks of being liable for an alcohol-related injury, consider providing non-alcoholic refreshments; offer alternative means of transportation or overnight accommodations; discontinue serving alcohol to visibly impaired guests and never serve alcohol to minors.

Non alcohol-related injuries

Property owners are responsible under State law to take “reasonable care” to prevent injuries to visitors and could be held liable for such injuries if it is proven they were aware – or should have been aware – of the risks.

Take time before your party to survey your property and make necessary repairs, including cleaning up loose materials that pose tripping hazards. Be sure to provide adequate lighting for steps, walkways and other areas your guests may use.

Pet-related injuries

Your holiday party may not be the best place for man’s best friend. Under New Jersey law, dog owners are liable for injuries their dogs cause to anyone who is lawfully on their property, whether or not the dogs ever exhibited aggressive behavior in the past. The victim of a dog bite only has to prove he or she was bitten while legally on your property and that the dog in question belongs to you. Consider kenneling your dog or restricting him to an area of your home not accessible to your guests.

Here’s to a happy and safe holiday season!

As published in the December 2015 issue of the "Clinton Township Newsletter."
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