Staff parties, family events, and outings with friends are becoming increasingly popular during the holidays.
There is also an increase in commercial host liability claims and personal injury cases on private property as a result.
Getting together at a restaurant, surrounded by warm holiday scents and decorations, is so festive. The holidays are all about indulging. Alcohol can sometimes lead people astray.
The restaurant’s job is to ensure that holiday cheer doesn’t result in injury or death.
You put your safety in the hands of the staff when you go out to a bar or restaurant. Private property injuries are serious, and those responsible must be held accountable.
Ensuring that patrons don’t make fatal mistakes is the establishment’s responsibility.
Take action if you have been injured in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence.
What Is Commercial Host Liability?
Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs serving alcohol for a profit may be liable for damages caused by drunk patrons.
Those who serve obviously drunk customers may be considered to have directly contributed to accidents or crimes such as:
Commercial servers of alcohol can also be liable for any damage caused by a minor who was served alcohol illegally.
Bars and restaurants owe a duty of care to their patrons. This responsibility is part of ensuring someone who has been drinking gets home safely without harming others.
Bars can be held responsible if someone gets in an accident after leaving a bar drunk.
Negligence encompasses commercial host liability. People who fail to meet their duty of care to others generally fall under this category.
Other names for commercial host liability include tavern liability, liquor liability, and bar host liability.
In this situation, an establishment can be held negligent and liable in two ways:
- Not ensuring that the patron has a safe way home. They may need to call a taxi or find another way home.
- The patron is overserved to the point of intoxication.
Even if the bar isn’t fully liable, it can still be liable for a portion of the liability for an accident.
Commercial Host vs. Social Host
A commercial host is different from a social host.
Social hosts provide alcohol without earning a profit. They usually do this in their own homes or private residences.
On the other hand, a commercial host sells alcohol for a profit. This is usually done at a business or commercial establishment.
Liability for social hosts is a little more complicated. Different rules and stipulations govern personal injury on private property.
Neither statutes nor regulations are clear, black and white. The newer laws put more responsibility on the social host to provide that duty of care to their guests as of recent years.
Liability for commercial hosts is much more defined and clear. The Liquor License Act outlines very specific rules and regulations.
It is much easier for an establishment to be held accountable for drunk patrons’ accidents. This is especially true when accidents occur after leaving a bar or restaurant.
What About My Company Party?
Liability insurance is required when you attend a company holiday party. Companies or employers may also provide their employees with company policies that specify specific regulations.
In most commercial situations, social hosts are covered by event liability insurance. The venue is responsible if your employer hosts the party as a special event.
There is, however, a problem if the party is held in an office or other non-licensed location. In the event of an accident, the employer is responsible. The company’s commercial insurance can also suffer serious repercussions.
It is the employer’s responsibility if a drunk driver leaves an office holiday party and injures you.
How Can Businesses Protect Themselves from Commercial Host Liability?
Despite state-specific alcohol and liquor liability laws, business owners can reduce their potential liability by taking a few steps. Among them are:
- Purchasing liability insurance
- Hiring trained or certified bartenders
- Refusing entrance or service to visibly drunk customers
- Tightly regulating the amount of liquor served in drinks
- Establishing clear policies and procedures to prevent over-serving
What Should I Do When I Suffer From an Establishment’s Negligence?
An establishment may be liable for accidents in a variety of situations.
The establishment is liable when a drunk driver hits you leaving a bar or restaurant.
The staff who served the person who hit you should have taken proper precautions to avoid this situation. A commercial host liability claim requires them to prove they followed those procedures.
In most cases, you will file a third-party claim against the establishment. Make sure you have everything you need to sue successfully by talking to a personal injury lawyer.
What Happens if Liquor Laws are Violated?
A liquor license comes with a set of regulations and laws that the business must follow. When a business obtains a liquor license, it must maintain and renew it regularly.
The loss of a business may result from serving or selling alcohol without a valid liquor license. In particularly serious cases, it may even result in jail time.
A business may have to pay additional fees when renewing its liquor license. Liquor laws can be violated in the following ways:
- Selling a type of alcohol that is not included in the liquor license;
- Selling alcohol to an underage person;
- Bartenders over serving customers;
- Allowing open containers to leave the premises; and
- Allowing employees to drink excessively after their shift.
Businesses that violate the terms of their liquor license will receive an accusation or a formal document informing them of the laws they violated. Additionally, the owner will be required to attend a hearing with the state’s alcohol control agent.
After that, a court will determine whether the license terms were actually violated and whether disciplinary action should be taken. A court may impose a series of consequences on the business if it finds that it violated the lease terms.
Revocation of the business’s liquor license is the most common example, which may be permanent in some cases. Restaurants selling alcohol to individuals under 21 often lose their liquor licenses permanently.
Furthermore, fines and fees may be included, or they may be the only disciplinary action imposed by the court. If certain conditions are met, a business may be able to restore its license.
A mistake in law enforcement procedure may, in some cases, be used as a defense. Some violations, however, are strict liability violations.
Individuals may be held responsible simply for their actions regardless of their knowledge or intentions at the time. For example, selling alcohol to minors may be punished even if the shop owner was unaware of the minor’s status.
Can a Business Limit Exposure to Commercial Host Liability?
A business can limit its exposure to commercial host liability by developing and implementing policies and procedures that prevent visibly intoxicated customers and minors from being served alcohol. A business should be aware of the state’s dram laws in order to develop an effective plan.
An establishment can prevent serving a visibly intoxicated customer by:
- Training employees in responsible alcohol service. Training programs may be effective, including:
- Refuse entrance or service to visibly intoxicated customers;
- Carefully control the amount of alcohol that is served in the drinks;
- Develop clear policies and procedures to prevent over-serving; and
- Strongly support employees’ decisions to cut-off alcohol service to visibly intoxicated persons.
To prevent a minor from being served, a business can:
- Check the IDs of all customers before serving them alcohol;
- Train bouncers and bartenders to spot fake IDs;
- Post signage that reflects the business’s ID checking policy;
- Invest in an ID card scanning system; and
- Carefully monitor tables where alcohol is served
A business may also purchase liability insurance in order to limit liability further if the business is sued.
Can a Lawyer Help Protect My Business?
Specific commercial host liability laws vary by state. Suppose you want to protect your business from commercial host liability lawsuits. In that case, a business attorney may be able to help you choose an insurance policy and operating procedure that best protects your business. Lawyers can also advise you of your rights and legal defenses if you are being sued for commercial host liability.