Celebrating the Holiday Season Social Gatherings and Host Responsibilities
Like many families, we get pretty excited for the holidays. From driving around looking at Christmas lights in our neighborhood to the breakfast quiche we enjoy on Christmas morning, our little traditions make the season feel special. On Christmas Eve, we bake and decorate cookies for Santa before heading to church in the evening. We attend a beautiful Christmas Eve mass in downtown Houston, complete with a youth choir. It’s our excuse to get all dressed up for the evening and take family pictures. In the past, we would run around like wild things on Christmas Eve finishing our Christmas shopping and getting ready for church, but last year, we were somehow ahead of schedule and had enough time to go see a movie as a family before mass. Honestly, we were all shocked! It had never happened before, and it was really nice not to be so rushed for a change. I think that it will become a new Christmas tradition! For a lot of people, holiday parties are part of the season. Hosting a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party can be a lot of fun, but when alcohol is involved, it adds potential for accidents to happen. Beyond making sure there’s enough spinach dip, hosts might wonder what they’re responsible for as far as guests’ safety: Can I be held responsible if someone drinks at my home and then drives? If guests give alcohol to underage kids, what’s my liability as the host? It’s wise to be mindful of these things if you find yourself hosting a fun gathering, so let’s see if we can clarify some of those concerns. Generally, a social host at a private residence is not responsible if a guest leaves the party and is involved in a collision. A rare exception would be if a social host charges a fee for alcohol — then they may be held liable as they change from a social host to a provider of alcohol and would be held to the same standard as a restaurant or bar. Also, if you’re a private social host, you may be liable if an unrelated minor aged 18 or under is served alcoholic beverages and causes a collision, even if you weren’t the one giving them alcohol. A restaurant or bar falls under different rules than a private social host, as set out by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, an establishment that sells alcohol may be held liable if they over-serve a patron who is then involved in a wreck resulting in injury to others or even himself. As mentioned above, all that is needed to avoid being held liable under this act is to provide your guests alcoholic beverages for no fee.
This holiday season, have fun, but don’t go overboard. If you’re hosting a party, encourage your guests to do the same. Remind people not to put themselves or others at risk when they’ve been drinking. Suggest alternative transportation options like Lyft or Uber. At the party, have plenty of water within reach, and if you notice a friend getting ready to leave after they’ve been drinking, check in with them about their plans to get home. Even if it’s not your legal responsibility to look after them, it is your moral obligation as their friend to do what you can to keep them safe. Both your conscience and your friend will thank you. If you have any questions about liability regarding hosting a party or injuries that occur following a party, don’t hesitate to reach out. Merry Christmas from our family to yours, and have fun by staying safe this season!
-Jennifer and John Kahn
www.KahnLawyers.com | 1
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