Hosting a New Year's Eve party? Find out why you might be liable for what your guests do later

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Its likely you've thought about the food, the decor and maybe even the entertainment for your New Year's Eve Party.

But you may not have thought about the liability that comes with hosting a party. 

Monica Lindstrom is an attorney based in Phoenix. She shared this with "Good Morning Arizona."

Imagine you are having some friends over to celebrate the end of 2013 and you are serving food and alcoholic drinks.   Further imagine that four hours later, after  enjoying the food and cocktails your guest drives off and hits and injures or kills another person. You could face both criminal and civil consequences.  Yes, you could face prison time and a lifetime of paying a debt that will never go away.

At one extreme you could be charged criminally with Negligent Homicide, a class 4 felony,  and face several years in prison.  At the other end you could be sued for Wrongful Death by the family of a person killed by your guest and have to pay financially for a debt that will never end. 

You may say, "This wouldn't happen to me; my friends would never throw me under the bus."

Newsflash, it wouldn't  be your friends pushing for the consequences. it would be law enforcement and the survivors.

The same goes whether the victim is injured or killed. You could be charged as an accomplice to a  criminal offense and sued for any and all injuries and property damage.  

Note two things, if your guest just causes property damage you can be on the hook  for that and you can still be charged civilly for harm even if there are no criminal charges.

Here is my advice. Offer your guests to stay at your home for the night.   Or, if that is not viable, set up a driver service for the evening. At a minimum, I recommend educating your guests on the use of Uber, an app designed to connect people with drivers, and write the numbers for several taxi companies on the door of your house. Lastly, watch your guests and take care of them, be a good and responsible host.

Have fun, celebrate, and be merry, AND protect your guests and yourself. 

Be smart and think ahead so that 2014 will be wonderful and spent with friends/family -- not in prison and the courtroom.