New England Patriots fans – and those who pull for the team from Seattle – are sure to have reasons to celebrate on Sunday, but want to do so safely. If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, you need to keep in mind some legal obligations you have under an area of the law known as “premises liability.”
In short, if you invite people to your home, you have a responsibility take reasonable steps to ensure that they remain safe. This means a party guest who is injured by a hazard at your home you created or failed to eliminate or adequately warn them about may be able to sue you for medical expenses and other losses, as well as for pain and suffering.
Before you say your friends would never sue you, keep in mind that the compensation they’d seek would come from your homeowners’ insurance, not out of your pocket. So any experienced personal injury lawyer would tell them they shouldn’t feel bad about bringing a claim.
It’s better to see to it that no one is hurt at your Super Bowl party. Here are four areas of concern and steps to take to make sure your party is safe:
- Alcohol. Chances are, you are serving alcohol at your party or allowing people to bring their own. If you or your guests are drinking, you should offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages, too. It is safer to limit your consumption to one drink an hour and to eat as well. Take responsibility for a guest who has over-imbibed, and do not let him or her drive. In Rhode Island and Connecticut, you could be held responsible for an underage party guest who drank and hurt someone later, such as in a car accident.
- Food. Of course you are serving food. But if it turns out to be spoiled food and a guest contracts food poisoning, you could be liable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the four steps to party food safety are: (1) keep everything clean; (2) cook foods to proper temperatures; (3) keep hot and cold, and cooked and raw foods separated; (4) don’t let food sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Your home. As you get ready for guests, make sure you remove or fix any potential hazards in and around your home, such as ice and snow on walkways, broken or loose steps or stairs, holes in the yard, torn carpet, loose rugs and broken handrails. We normally think of slip-and-fall accidents at stores and other businesses, but you can be held responsible for a fall hazard at your private residence if someone is injured. You should also consider “attractive nuisances” – like trampolines, jungle gyms, playsets, swimming pools and artificial water features (ponds and fountains, for example) – if children will be at your party. Even if a child has been told to stay away, a homeowner could be held liable for accidents.
- Pets. Don’t invite Fido to your party. Even your mild-mannered pup could bite in some situations, such as if he becomes overexcited or threatened by a crowd of people or the eruption of screams after a big play. About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, according to the CDC, and about 1 in 5 of them requires medical care. Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2013, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
We don’t mean to scare anyone off of the idea of hosting a party this weekend, but your obligations as a host are real. On the other side of the coin, if you’ve been hurt in an accident while a guest in someone’s home, you have rights as we’ve outlined above.
If you’re injured by someone else’s negligence at a Super Bowl party or any other event, contact Rhode Island’s Trusted Personal Injury Attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush to discuss your legal rights and options. We provide free case reviews to victims with potential premises liability claims. Call us at 855-801-6262 or fill out a contact form to set up a free legal consultation. We have four offices located in Providence, Wakefield, Warwick, and Woonsocket to easily serve you.