Party hosts have legal responsibilities

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- If you're throwing a holiday party you may have to worry about more than hamburgers and hot dogs.

“As a homeowner, there is a legal responsibility to your guests,” said Raechel Barrios, an attorney with the Phoenix law firm of Friedl and Richardson.
Barrios has seen an increase in lawsuits against party hosts.
“They serve alcohol without being cognizant of the fact that their guests will be driving home. Often times they have pools that don’t have gates up,” said Barrios.
Other common hazards include uneven ground, dangerous dogs, or any jagged metal that could cut a guest. Barrios said anything the homeowner knows about and doesn’t fix or warn guests about could be the basis for a lawsuit if someone gets injured as a result.
Will Farley was injured at a 4th of July pool party in Tucson two years ago.
“I was walking towards the pool. There was a piece of lifted board from the root of a tree. As I was walking I tripped over it and hit my head, and cracked it open,” said Farley.
Farley suffered a concussion, a laceration that required eight stitches, and mounting hospital bills.
“The medical bills were pretty expensive and I could not afford them. The pool owner would not pay them. I had asked him several times,” said Farley.
Farley eventually successfully sued the home owner to cover the cost of his medical bills.
Barrios said despite all this, homeowners should not be afraid of throwing a party. Diminishing legal liability can be easy as warning your guests.
“Often times it’s as simple as a warning,” she said, “Knowing your house, knowing what condition it is and providing adequate warning to your guests that there might be a danger. If you provide notice, then it absolves you of some of the responsibility.”