Holiday Parties: Homeowner Liability

By admin

Where did the summer go?  Thanksgiving and Christmas are now just around the corner and with those holidays comes the holiday parties.

Often many people wonder what their liability is if someone is injured at their home during a holiday party or if someone has a little too much to drink and gets into an accident. This can be an important and somewhat confusing topic of conversation around this time.

In New Jersey, a social guest who is invited to someone’s home has limited protections from dangerous conditions. The host has no obligation to make his or her home safer for party guests than for themselves. The host is also not required to inspect their property to discovery dangerous conditions that can lead to injuries. But that’s not the end of it.

Homeowners can still be liable for guest’s injuries. If the host knows or has reason to know of a dangerous condition on the property that could harm their guests and it is a condition that a guest could not reasonably discover, the host has a duty to make the condition safe or give warning to the guest. It may be easier to look at a quick example:

Martha wants to host a Christmas party at her home and plans to invite about twenty people. In the process of cleaning her house for the party, while dusting her hardwood floors, she notices that there is a sharp nail poking out of the floor. It’s the same color as the floor, but she happened to notice it because she was cleaning. Martha gets distracted and forgets about the nail. Later on all her guests arrive and she forgets to mention the nail to any of them. At the end of the night her guest Donald gets his pant leg caught on the nail and falls and breaks his ankle.

In this example Martha actually knew of a dangerous condition that could pose harm to her social guests. Rather then remedy the condition by nailing it down or removing it, she left it. She gave no warning to Donald and he was unable to discover the condition because the nail was small and blended in with the flooring. When Donald gets hurt Martha is liable to him for his injuries.

This is just one example of how a social host can be liable to guests this holiday season. Other common scenarios aren’t as cut and dry as Martha’s knowledge of the nail. Often times, the dangerous condition may be one that the homeowner does not discover but is one that they should have discovered. Let’s look at another Martha example:

Martha is again cleaning for her party, but this time she doesn’t actually discover any dangerous conditions. She walks through her house about a dozen times before her guests arrive, including her long wooden hallway. Throughout the day she walks the hallway about ten times but she’s so preoccupied with the party that she fails to see a large puddle of water on the floor. Later when Donald is walking through the hallway he slips and injures himself. It is quite possible that Martha will be liable even though she never saw the spill as she should have been aware of the spill and warned her social guests.
If these scenarios sound familiar, you may want to speak to an attorney who handles these matters and see what your options are.

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