If offering alcohol during parties, serve with side of caution

Questions and Answers with Michael Joseph

published in The Oklahoman | December 5, 2006

As the holiday party season gets into full swing, The Oklahoman interviewed Michael Joseph, a shareholder and director with McAfee & Taft, about the potential legal liabilities that employers and other party hosts face when serving alcohol at their events.

Although court cases in Oklahoma absolve social hosts from liquor liability, Joseph advises employers, as well as homeowners and renters, to be extremely cautious if they serve alcohol at holiday parties.  "If a host, for example, is so grossly negligent that he continues to provide alcohol to a clearly intoxicated guest, state law could be expanded to hold the host liable for any injuries that may be caused later by that guest."

To be on the safe side, Joseph recommends that employers hold functions at licensed restaurants and establishments whose liquor law liability insurance would cover the event, and that residential hosts of social parties verify their liability coverage in their homeowner’s or renter’s policy before planning a party.

Furthermore, he warns hosts about the dangers of serving alcohol where minors are present.  "Insurance policies provide no liability coverage for serving alcohol to minors.  If minors help themselves to beer or liquor at holiday parties, hosts are still responsible and could face criminal charges."