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December 2018 - 'Tis the Season for Celebrating - Do It Wisely

Champagne Flutes Glass This is the season for friends and family to celebrate past accomplishments and future opportunities. Before you send out your invitations, though, understand your responsibilities and liabilities as a social host.

If your holiday party plans include adult beverages, remember that alcohol and minors don’t mix. In New Jersey, serving alcohol to a minor or allowing your property to be used for gatherings where alcohol could be consumed by minors is a criminal offense with penalties of up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

But minors aren’t a host’s only consideration. New Jersey’s social host liability laws say that homeowners can, under certain circumstances, be held liable for injuries suffered by guests.

Alcohol-Related Injuries

Under State law, an intoxicated person can’t hold a host liable for injuries resulting from their inebriation; however, a third-party injured as a result of negligence on the part of a “visibly intoxicated” guest can seek punitive damages from the host or the host’s insurance company.

Limit your risks by providing non-alcoholic refreshments, offering alternative means of transportation or overnight accommodations, and not serving alcohol to visibly impaired guests.

Non-Alcohol-Related Injuries

State law also says property owners must take “reasonable care” to prevent injuries to visitors. Property owners could be held liable if a guest is injured as a result of a hazard the property owner knew about, or should have been aware of.

Before your party, survey your property and make necessary repairs: clean up loose materials that pose tripping hazards; and provide adequate lighting for steps, walkways and other areas your guests may use.

Pet-Related Injuries

Your pet may be your best friend, but when it comes to holiday parties he might be better off confined to a kennel or an area of your home not accessible to your guests. In New Jersey, dog owners are liable if their dogs injure anyone lawfully on their property, whether or not the dogs have exhibited aggressive behavior in the past.

Here’s to a happy and safe holiday season!

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