The holiday season is fast approaching this often means social gatherings and holiday cheer. If your Rhode Island party or get-together involves alcohol, here are a few things you need to know.
Legal Duty During Event
As a host, you can be liable to a third-party if one of your guests leaves your event and injures someone. This includes anyone of any age impaired by alcohol during an event under your control.
The court considers underage drinking a special relationship which gives rise to a special duty to protect the public and avoid further problems. If you provide alcoholic beverages to underage persons, or had actual knowledge of the presence and consumption of alcohol by underage persons on your property, then you are duty-bound to exercise reasonable care.
It is illegal to serve alcohol to an underage person anywhere on your property, so act responsibly.
No Exceptions For Your Children
Don’t fool yourself into believing its fine to allow your kids to host a party in your home with alcohol. Just because they’re at home under your supervision, you aren’t immune to the potential legal ramifications.
You can’t condone underage drinking anywhere on your property – period. Otherwise, you assume a duty of protection and could face the consequences. If you are aware or furnish underage persons with alcohol, you could be criminally liable.
Rhode Island law includes fines and prison terms for hosts aware of alcohol on their property or if the buy or furnish alcohol to minors. The maximum fine is $2,500 and 3 years in prison.
Additionally, anyone under 21 years of age can also face penalties and community service if they’re caught with alcohol, use fake identification to buy it, or they could lose their license if they transport alcohol.
However, you could also face a civil case if you serve minors or over-serve adults and that will cost you much, much more. Court and legal fees, settlements, medical bills and other fees can easily wipe out assets and future earnings.
Be A Responsible Host
It is important event hosts do what they can to serve alcohol responsibly to reduce their social host liability exposure. Here are a few things to consider for reduced risk.
- Use a venue – restaurants and bars assume the risk as long as they have a liquor license.
- Hire a bartender – they know the signs of intoxication and can limit consumption.
- Check transportation – either ensure each party has a designated driver, stay sober and offer to drive, or set up a taxi service with a local provider.
- Stay sober – if you drink too much you can’t judge your guests’ sobriety.
- Consider a dry event – you don’t need to include alcohol in your event to have a good time. Always offer non-alcoholic beverages and food when serving alcoholic beverages.
- Close the bar – as your event winds down, switch service from alcohol to coffee, tea, and soft drinks at least a few hours before it is time for guests to leave.
Consider Your Liability Insurance
Your Rhode Island homeowner’s insurance policy may offer some protection, but your limit could be as low as $100,000. That’s not sufficient if you’re caught in a lawsuit.
Before you host a party, review your insurance with your agent to ensure you’re properly protected. They may suggest an umbrella policy for additional coverage.