Personal injury lawyer, Nick Clekis, wants you enjoy the warmer weather that has finally arrived. However, he says it is important to know your liabilities when hosting Spring and Summer gatherings. There are many scenarios where social host liability comes into play. If the party is held at a location such as a rented-out bar or reception hall the rules are different than if you host a cookout at your home.
Serving Alcohol to an Adult Guest
In South Carolina, there is NO liability for an adult host who serves alcohol to another adult even if an intoxicated adult then gets behind the wheel and causes an accident. However, it is strongly encouraged that everyone, hosts and guest, discourage intoxicated people from driving. If possible try to convince the intoxicated person to hand over the keys, catch a cab or spend the night. Having food and non-alcoholic drink options available when guests are drinking is always a good idea.
Serving Alcohol to a Minor Guest
If a person under 21 years of is knowingly served alcohol or allowed to consume alcohol, the host is liable to the underage drinker and any third person that was harmed due to the minor’s intoxication. The law in South Carolina is unclear whether a host who unknowingly serves alcohol or allows alcohol to be served a person under 21 years old would be liable for any injuries caused by the minor. Your best bet is to err on the side of caution and have strict “no drinking” policies for underage people at their party. Alcohol should not be left in a place where the underage people can easily consume it. It should also be noted that providing alcohol to an underage person is a crime.
Hazards on the Property
When hosting a gathering, the hosts do not legally have ab obligation to inspect the property looking for hazards. However, the hosts do have a duty to warn guests of hazards they know about on the property. These hazards include things such as sharp edges on appliances or loose boards on steps or a deck. That being said, do not let this statement cause you to lower your guard. A homeowner could be liable to a commercial visitor, such as a pest control representative or pool maintenance employee. Therefore, look for hazards around your property, correct them as best as you can, and warn people if the hazard has not been corrected. Also, make sure it is well-lit around your pool so no one falls in and don’t leave fires unattended.
Whether you have a trampoline in your backyard or shoot fireworks on the Fourth of July, there is an obligation to your your guests safety. A trampoline should be inspected regularly for busted springs or tears that could cause it to be more dangerous. Guests should stay a safe distance from where fireworks are being used. All firearms should be under lock and key at all times. The list goes on and on. At the minimum, try and use your common sense.
Strict Liability for Dogs
Unlike some states, South Carolina has “strict liability” dog laws. “Strict liability” means that if your dog bites someone, you are automatically liable for the injury unless you can show the dog was provoked. Even if your dog isn’t normally a “biter,” it may be best to kennel the dog while you have guests. The gentlest of dogs may become aggressive if a young child at your party tries to feed your dog, then takes the food away. Something so innocent could cause great injury to a young child, and some insurance policies have exclusions regarding dog bites, so you may not even be covered.
It would be impossible to cover every possible scenario that could happen at a party at your house. The best advice is to use common sense, don’t get out of control, make sure your homeowners’ insurance policy is paid up, consider purchasing an umbrella policy . . . and have the beautiful weather!