Entertaining at Home

Make sure your next party doesn’t serve up a lawsuit


entertaining at home

Whether it’s a work-related party, a family wedding, or a milestone celebration for your child, hosting a party in the comfort of your own home can add a special touch to the festivities. But what happens if something goes wrong?

Consider the following scenarios:

You’re having a birthday pool party for your child and invite friends and family to the event. A child who can’t swim very well is pushed into the deep end of the pool and drowns. Because you have a high profile in the local community, the media spreads this unfortunate news.

You are running to be president of a local wine club. You invite friends from the wine club to your home to persuade them to vote for you. During the party you make some defamatory comments about the person running against you, not realizing one of the guests is friends with both of you. The guest is a newspaper columnist and writes a scathing article about the incident. You are now facing a PR situation.

Hosting an event in your home, especially if you have a high-value home and you are a visible member of the community, can potentially increase your risk since you are more likely to be a target of litigation and reputation attacks in the media.

Does this mean you should never open your home to guests? Of course not. But before you plan your next party, consider the responsibility you are taking on. As a host, you need to be prepared and adequately protect yourself from the risks home entertaining can bring.

Here are a few tips to help reduce your risks:

Food-related issues. Even if food was prepared outside your home by a caterer, another guest, a local deli or the neighborhood pizza joint, you could be held liable if someone becomes ill from consuming it on your property.

  • Use only reputable caterers and suppliers.
  • Follow proper handling and heating/cooling recommendations.
  • Don’t leave perishable foods out for long periods of time. If in doubt, throw it out.

Alcohol protocol. In addition to the risks of guest driving home drunk, alcohol consumption also increases the likelihood of on-premise accidents and slanderous speech, all of which can create a liability risk for you.

  • Encourage guests to have a designated driver and/or make it easy for guests to take a cab or other form of transportation.
  • Schedule activities that take the focus off drinking.
  • Consider hiring a bartender who will stay sober and watch for signs of intoxicated guests.
  • Have plenty of non-alcoholic options available, and consider closing the bar an hour before the party ends.

Safety first. If someone is injured on your property, you could be held liable. A few weeks before the party, check the area(s) of your home where guests will be allowed. If you find any hazards, have them repaired before the party.

  • Look for trip hazards, such as slippery rugs, loose decking boards, or uneven pavement.
  • Check decks and balconies for adequate support. Railings should also be tested to ensure there are no weak spots. Make sure people do not hang over or sit on railings.
  • Keep lights on around stairs or other potentially hazardous areas. If guests will be outside at night, provide adequate lighting. Consider installing string lights, or renting light fixtures if needed.

What they don’t know could hurt them. Your home and property are familiar to you, but guests may not realize the need to use caution around certain things.

  • Swimming pools and other water features pose a hazard, especially for young children. If possible, keep children away from the water (with fencing, or self-latching doors). If you’re hosting a swim party, consider hiring a lifeguard.
  • Fireplaces and outdoor firepits should be screened to prevent sparks from flying out (and things from falling in). Also make sure all decorations are a safe distance from the flames.
  • Pets should not be allowed to mingle with the guests. Keep them closed in a kennel or separate room, or send them elsewhere for the duration of the event. In addition to protecting your guests, this prevents your pets from being injured, getting lost, or becoming ill from eating party food.
  • Firearms, if you own them, should be locked up and hidden from view, especially if children will be present.


 Insure to ensure a great event

Although these preventative measures can help you prepare for your event, they do not guarantee that an unfortunate situation won’t occur. Before hosting a big event, it’s a good idea to give your insurance agent a call. Your General Southwest advisor is available to review your homeowners’ and personal umbrella policies, to make sure you have adequate coverage for liability and defense costs for situations like these.

If you do experience a problem, it important to contact your agent as soon as possible to protect your finances and your reputation. The team at GSW is always available to answer questions and assist you in getting the right coverage, so you can enjoy entertaining without worry.


This article is based on information from Nationwide Private Client and Trusted Choice. Visit their websites for additional resources.

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