Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania party hosts are liable for guests' safety

Pennsylvania homeowners fire up barbeques throughout the summer to entertain family and friends. Most hosts feel preparation effort, food expenses and cleanup are worth the fun.

Allegheny County property owners often send out party invitations without giving much thought to liability. It is often assumed that a guest who trips and falls into a pool or has too much alcohol will be safe in the surroundings of an attentive group. As premises liability attorneys and victims know, that's not always true.

Civil and even criminal allegations can be made against a host when a minor is served alcohol or a guest is injured or dies. A homeowner who permits underage drinking on his property may not be insured for harm that comes to a young guest.

There's a line of reasoning that if minors drink alcohol at home, they are less likely to drink outside an environment that adults control. Even supervised minors can be harmed. A Canadian teen died from alcohol poisoning during a party at a friend's house. The presence of adults made no difference.

A "duty of care" is something many people believe is reserved for family members, but laws extend personal obligations. A reckless driver is accountable for accident injuries. In the same way, homeowners are custodians of guests' safety.

Personal injury attorneys suggest ways to make festivities safer. Limiting the availability of alcohol prevents overindulgence. An assigned bartender will stop guests from mixing their own drinks.

Hosts should stop intoxicated guests from driving by offering them a place to stay or providing safe passage home. An abundant food supply dilutes alcohol's effects. Smaller parties are easier to monitor than large ones.

Summer parties are designed to be celebrations of family togetherness and friendship. No one anticipates injuries, deaths or liability consequences. Attorneys encourage homeowners to understand the legal responsibilities they have for the safety of anyone who enters their property.

Source:, "Summer Safety: What you need to know about serving alcohol in your home" No author given, Jul. 03, 2013

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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