Throwing a house party for New Year’s? You can face significant liabilities

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 7:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -It’s no surprise that New Year’s eve is the most dangerous holiday.

“I do personal injury work. So, on New Year’s Day and the days that follow unfortunately that’s when my phones are the busiest and I’d rather them not be,” said Marc Lamber an attorney with Fennemore law firm.

Drunk driving fatalities are more than 115% higher in the hours after midnight than on any other day of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Hosting a house party?

Whether or not alcohol is involved, if something goes wrong you could be held responsible. You could be named in a civil lawsuit, or charged with a crime.

When throwing a house party, Lamber says you need to consider your responsibilities as a host.

“Fortunately, in Arizona there is social host immunity. What that means is, if you don’t have a liquor license and you’re throwing a party and you serve alcohol and one of the participants leaves drunk and hurts someone. Then civil liability, financial responsibility doesn’t flow back to you as the homeowner or the person throwing the party.”

But there is an exception under Arizona law.

“And the exception is if you serve someone under the legal drinking age. Or if they obtain alcohol at your party even without you serving them,” said Lamber.

“So in that situation, meaning there is civil liability, you are not immune. So if you serve someone who is 19-years-old alcohol at your party and they go out and hurt someone. The person who is hurt or their family can bring civil claims to sue you for money.”

Lamber says under that scenario hosts can also face criminal charges.

“And so you could have six months in jail for that,” said Lamber.

To reduce the likelihood of accidents involving drunk driving, plan ahead.

  • Remove alcohol when minors are present
  • Offer a car service or Ubers for guests
  • Ensure designated drivers stay sober
  • Limit alcohol or hire a professional bartender to ensure no one is excessively drinking

Lamber says even if alcohol isn’t involved, but if you provide a youngster a car and they hurt someone, you can be held civilly responsible and sued as a parent under the family purpose doctrine in Arizona.