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Summer parties: What your liability is

As host, the buck stops with you. Here's how to cover yourself for any possible liability issues.

One tip: Don't over-serve alcohol to guests who

One tip: Don't over-serve alcohol to guests who seem intoxicated, and make sure they have a designated driver. Photo Credit: AP / Eric Risberg

In the season for backyard BBQs and pool parties, for sure there’s much fun to be had, but the truth is, stuff happens. As host, the buck stops with you.

Here’s how to cover yourself for any possible liability issues.

Review your homeowner/general liability insurance policy

"Most homeowner/general liability insurance policies will cover an injury to a guest at a party and may also provide coverage for a social host/"dram shop" claim if the person who was allegedly overserved is over 21,” says Manhattan lawyer Carter Reich. 

He recommends having at least $1 million in general liability coverage (either in primary or combined primary and umbrella). Pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy.

Be mindful of food safety

Not only do you want your food to be awesome, you want it to be safe. “One of the biggest issues we run into with summer parties is food poisoning. Cases can range from pretty mild to severe — I have helped represent several people who were hospitalized as a result of catering gone wrong,” says Candess Zona-Mendola, a senior trial paralegal with the Lange Law Firm in Houston.

She says to hire a reputable caterer, someone who is bonded and insured. Check their health department inspections and read reviews from former customers. If you’re cooking, remember proper food holding temperatures are key. Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F.) and cold ones cold (under 40 degrees F.). Meat should be cooked at least 165 degrees F., and don’t leave food out too long, especially in hot weather.

Party-proof your place

Walk around the premises before your party and look for trip hazards (extension cords, protruding nails, etc.). Make sure cooking areas are sufficiently fireproofed (keeping barbecues away from overhanging trees, decks, children, etc.) Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Finally, says Reich, “Do not over-serve people who appear to be intoxicated or make sure they have a designated driver.”

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