From November through the first week of January, millions will gather with family, friends and co-workers to eat, drink and be merry. If the host serves alcohol at these holiday parties, he or she may be liable for guests who have too much to drink.
Holiday DUI statistics:
- The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reports that every day, almost 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes; that represents one person every 50 minutes.
- According to the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,200 people will be killed and another 25,000 injured between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day in drunk-driving accidents.
- Statistics show that during Christmas and New Year’s, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year.
- NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) says that 40 percent of traffic fatalities during the holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired.
What is the host’s legal liability?
Party hosts, whether they are companies or private citizens, can be held liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. Some courts have found the hosts liable for damages. There are also many states which have enacted statutes that have been interpreted as mandating non-commercial social host liability. This liability may occur if an accident is caused by alcohol consumption, and the consumption can be linked to the host’s serving the alcohol. If this is the case, the host can be held responsible for the payment of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and claims for wrongful death.
Florida law imposes a duty on social hosts with regards to the consumption of alcohol by guests. Known as the “Open House Party” law, Florida Statutes section 856.015 makes it a crime for any person 18 years or older to host an “open house party,” which is defined as any social gathering at a home, apartment, condominium or other dwelling unit, if “the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.” It is important to note that a “minor”, for purposes of the “Open House Party” law, is anyone under the legal drinking age of 21.
Holiday parties do not have to have alcoholic beverages available. A change in theme and time of the party could be condusive to no alcohol. Hosts may consider having an open house or luncheon rather than a cocktail party. Since these are daytime events and last a shorter amount of time, the potential for liability for a DUI accident diminishes.
Should a host still include some alcohol in the refreshments being offered, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) recommends the following 6 tips:
- When guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the non-drinking designated driver.
- Provide plenty of food to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
- Avoid too many salty snacks which would tend to make people thirsty and drink more.
- Offer non-alcoholic beverages for not only designated drivers but others who prefer not to drink alcohol. As the evening progresses, decrease the amount of alcohol poured in drinks and replace with mixers.
- If preparing a punch, make the punch non-alcoholic.
- Be prepared with the phone number of a taxi service for those who may need transportation. Also, be prepared for potential overnight guests.
Fort Myers DUI Accident Attorney, Randall Spivey says, “Enjoying the company of friends and family over the holidays is important. We at Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, wish everyone a safe, fun-filled, and accident-free holiday.”
Hurt By Drunk Driver Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.