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Understanding your liability as the host of a holiday party in Arizona

Posted at 10:34 PM, Dec 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 00:34:05-05

PHOENIX — 'Tis the season for holiday parties and family gatherings, and often these festivities include alcohol. For those of you who are hosting one of these holiday bashes, whether it's an intimate dinner you are hosting for four or a big party for 100, there are some things you will want to consider early on in the party-planning stages.

"People need to understand that if they're going to throw a holiday party there are some situations where you might be liable if someone leaves your party and ends up hurting somebody else, especially if alcohol is involved," said Valley attorney and KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom.

Here in Arizona, Lindstrom said there were laws that could protect you from facing a civil suit if one of your guests got into a car accident, or hurt someone else in a crash after drinking too much at your party.

The social host liability laws in Arizona has two key factors you need to follow to protect yourself from legal liability.

"As long as you're not selling the alcohol, the people who are at the party are responsible for their own actions," said attorney Jim Higgins.

To cover your base you cannot be considered a "vendor" of alcohol which means no charging a cover for people to enter your party, and no asking people to chip in for the booze.

The second key factor was making sure you did not serve any alcohol to anyone who is underage.

"All bets are off if you are caught serving to minors. You are probably going to get into some kind of trouble somehow along the way, that is definitely something you don't want to do," Lindstrom said.

Attorneys advised anyone hosting a party to organize and make sure to let guests know about a designated driver program.

Encourage guests to sign up as designated drivers. Make sure that driver is holding the keys to the vehicle. Keep an eye on how much alcohol your guests are consuming and cut them off after a few drinks. This means "bring your own booze" may not be the best idea. Making the drinks yourself or hiring someone to act as a bartender enables you to control how much alcohol is being consumed by your guests. Also, make sure to have non-alcoholic drinks handy for guests.

Attorneys say the bottom line is to be reasonable, exercise good judgment, watch your guests, and have a good time.