Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) Chairman Tim Holden, and PLCB Member Michael Newsome today offered tips on safely hosting parties and reminded Pennsylvanians of potential liability if a guest has an alcohol-related incident, even after leaving the party.
“The holiday season is a time for celebrating with family, friends, and coworkers. As people make plans to get together, we strongly encourage them to take common-sense precautions and promote responsible alcohol consumption,” said PLCB Chairman Holden at an event at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection located in the Shoppes at Belmont in Lancaster. “Not only is Fine Wine & Good Spirits your go-to place for wine, spirits, and holiday gifts, but we have also partnered with the Insurance Department to develop a resource offering valuable tips for responsibly hosting safe parties, ensuring everyone gets home safely, and taking steps to avoid liability.”
This week, a two-sided flyer featuring hosting suggestions and helpful links will be placed in customers’ bags at more than 600 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores throughout Pennsylvania.
“It’s important for party hosts to understand that under Pennsylvania law they can be held legally responsible for guests’ actions even after they leave the party,” Insurance Commissioner Altman explained. “Hosts can be held liable for negligence for the actions of an intoxicated guest, similar to being liable for injuries or property damage someone may suffer if a sidewalk for which the insurance policy holder is responsible is found to have contributed to the injury by being in disrepair, or not cleared of ice and snow.”
The in-store handout and web resources identify several actions hosts can take to avoid potential liability. These include:
- Making sure as a host you stay sober to monitor your guests’ sobriety
- Having a good amount and variety of food on hand throughout the party
- Offering a variety of non-alcoholic beverages
- Stopping alcohol service about an hour before the party ends
- Never serving alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age, which is illegal and carries significant civil and criminal liabilities
The resources also list actions a host can take if a guest has had too much to drink or is too tired to drive safely, including:
- Arranging for one or a few guests to not drink alcohol during the party and serve as designated drivers
- Calling a cab or ride-share for a guest
- Offering for a guest to stay overnight
Additional party planning and responsible hosting tips are available at FineWineAndGoodSpirits.com, under “Entertain,” including a calculator that can help a host determine how much alcohol might be needed at a party. A “Home for the Holidays” informational piece with tips on fire safety for holiday decorations, party hosting liability, and how to lessen the chances of gifts being stolen is also available at insurance.pa.gov, under “Coverage,” on the homeowner’s insurance page.
Altman said a homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy might provide some liquor liability coverage, but this coverage can vary from policy to policy.
“A policy might provide coverage for things such as the costs associated with a legal defense, including expenses, settlements, or judgements,” Altman said. “However, some policies might exclude coverage for liability relating to serving alcohol in your home or apartment, especially if a criminal charge or conviction results from an incident involving alcohol.”
Altman added that, even if a policy has liquor liability coverage, in cases where there is extensive property damage, significant injury, or death, the liability limits in the policy might be insufficient to cover the costs.
“The best idea is to review your policy and discuss your liability coverage with your insurance professional and, if appropriate, consider adding a liquor liability rider to provide extra coverage,” Altman said.
At the event, PLCB Member Newsome also discussed how holiday celebrations are a great, natural opportunity to discuss with children the risks and dangers of underage drinking and how and why adults responsibly consume alcohol.
“In developing our Know When. Know How. statewide education and prevention campaign, which provides parents the information, resources, and confidence they need to begin having conversations with their kids about alcohol early and often, we learned that 7 out of 10 Pennsylvania parents don’t secure their alcohol, and about 20 percent of parents think it’s OK to let kids try alcohol on special occasions,” Newsome said. “One of the most basic tips we can offer is, don’t let minors have access to alcohol and open a dialogue with your children about why alcohol is not good for kids.”
At KnowWhenKnowHow.org, parents can find information about alcohol presented in digestible bits and pieces so parents can become comfortable discussing the topic without being overwhelmed. The website provides scenarios and tips on how parents can spark conversations about alcohol with their kids, features facts and statistics about alcohol’s effects on a growing body and discusses the role of parental responsibility as it relates to underage drinking prevention.
Altman, Holden, and Newsome all urged party hosts to be responsible, plan ahead so adult guests can consume safely and make good holiday memories with family and friends they’ll treasure for a lifetime.