Most of us have social functions in our home, many in which we serve alcoholic beverages. This is not unusual and is a widely-accepted social practice. It is important for the host to remember their responsibility doesn’t end with having enough ice and chips. As a social host, it is your responsibility to maintain vigilance of your guests when you serve alcoholic beverages. It is important for you to intervene if you feel someone has had too much to drink. It is usually a good idea to cut off the alcohol an hour before the expected end of a gathering.
In a 2011 decision, a Massachusetts court and the Court of Appeals upheld the exclusion in the homeowner policy for claims arising out of the use of a vehicle. In this case, which involves alcohol being served (which could have contributed to a claim involving the use of a motor vehicle), there was no coverage under the homeowner policy.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 37 states have adopted some form of “social host” law. The Massachusetts decision leaves a host without coverage if found liable as a result of a guest being involved in an automobile accident, causing injuries to himself or someone else, as a result of alcohol consumption at your home.
Whether your state interprets the homeowner policy to provide coverage in these situations or not, most of these cases result in very high judgments that may exceed your homeowner limit. The best approach is to purchase a personal umbrella policy that provides coverage in increments of $1 million, and provides host liquor liability.
With this coverage, you will not only be sure of having protection under these circumstances, but will also have a higher limit of liability.
If you serve your guests alcohol:
• Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcohol.
• Limit your alcohol intake so that you can better judge your guests’ sobriety.
• Make nonalcoholic beverages available and always serve food. Food helps counter the effects of alcohol.
• Never continue to serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
• Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.