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Premises Liability for Party Hosts

December 16, 2013 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence

December is the month for Christmas parties, family dinners, and, with the kids out of school for break, lots of play dates. But with the responsibility of hosting comes the added responsibility of ensuring the safety of your guests, personal injury attorneys in New Jersey say. Although hosts want to ensure that their guests enjoy themselves, they also need to make sure that their home and property are safe for visitors.

If a person is injured in his or her host’s home, the guest must prove the existence of a dangerous condition that caused the injury. Shattered Christmas bulbs or ornaments, dim lighting, or unsecured railings on stairways can all serve as proof that you, as a host, did not make adequate preparations to protect your guests’ safety. If there is evidence that the host knew about the dangerous condition ahead of time, that can further fuel a personal injury claim, so a thorough check of your property before a party is important.  

With the onslaught of winter storms and colder weather, property owners often have to deal with walkways and driveways that are slippery from the ice and snow. Party hosts have a responsibility to provide their guests with a clear path, so that they can walk to and from their cars safely. If a guest slips on a patch of ice, and breaks an arm, the homeowner can be held liable for that injury, including the medical bills and any necessary ongoing care. Be sure to shovel snow away from the driveway and walking paths, and sprinkle salt to get rid of any icy sections. Because it gets darker earlier this time of year, light your property with outside lamps, if possible, to help guests see their way to the door. 

If you are decorating your property with Christmas lights or lawn ornaments, make sure that the electrical cords run from the sockets securely. The combination of loose electrical wires and wet snow can result in electrocution, and fraying cords or improperly connected lights can easily start a fire. Try to avoid running too many cords across your yard and walkways so that guests do not trip and injure themselves. Make sure to clear obstacles such as loose gravel, holes in the ground, and crumbling sidewalk edges and steps as well. 

Inside the home, be sure to keep valuable objects safe by either displaying them behind glass or out of reach, or pack them away for the duration of your party season. Keep your home free from any potentially hazardous objects, such as exposed wires, loose steps, or upturned rugs that could cause people to trip or stumble. Lit candles, while pretty and ambient, can be dangerous, especially with a larger crowd of guests. Scented wax warmers can provide a similarly pleasant aroma, without the danger of open flames. 

The personal injury lawyers at New Jersey-based law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, encourage everyone to have a happy holiday season. Keep your homes and yards neat, and ensure that your guests will have a wonderful—and safe—time in your home. 

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