The Tailgate Party and Liability

We're only a few weeks away from the fall football season. Millions of rabid football fans will throw food and beverages into their favorite vehicle and head for the football stadium parking lots. When they arrive, the barbecue grills will come out, tables and chairs will be set up, team flags and banners will go up, and the ice chests will be filled with great beverages.

Now, why would I spoil that festive party atmosphere with an article about liability?

That's simple, my friends. I want to warn you about some very serious issues that could not only spoil your tailgate party, but drastically affect your financial future.

I'll be talking about tailgate parties thrown by both individuals and businesses because some of the potential problems are the same.

Problem Number One: is your legal liability at the football venue. You are parked in a public parking lot. You may be parked in a private lot. But either way, someone else owns the ground on which you sit. So, they could be found legally reasonable in case a guest gets injured on their promises. The problem arises when your participation is included. If you are taking up space with your truck, camper, motor coach or tent, along with tables, chairs, grilles, and such, you are adding to the number of things that could cause a personal injury. Chairs collapse, people trip on things, grilles blow up … and the personal injuries would not have occurred but for your tailgate party.

Problem Number Two: is injury to others from tainted food. Many times, tailgate parties go on for many hours. Food sets out on tables waiting for guests to load up their plates. But if someone gets food poisoning from food they ate at your tailgate party, you could be found liable for their injury, medical costs, loss of income from missing work, or even death.

To minimize your tainted food risk, be careful to keep your hot foods hot and your cold foods cold. Use covered dishes and throwaway plates and utensils. And refuse from serving foods that have a reputation for going bad, like potato salad or seafood.

Problem Number Three: is your legal liability for serving alcoholic beverages. If a guest gets injured at the tailgate party, or in the football stadium, or while driving home, or injures others because he is determined to be drunk, you could have found legally viable for furnishing the alcoholic beverages to him.

If you feel you must furnish alcoholic beverages, consider a drink voucher system to limit the number of drinks served. Or, serve alcohol for only a short period.

Serve plenty of non-alcoholic beverages: water, sodas, juices, coffee, tea.

Arrange transportation for inoxicated guests if they are leaving the tailgate party with some of your booze in their belly. Call a cab, use designed drivers, or get them home in your vehicle.

Do not sell alcoholic beverages at the tailgate party. No cash bar, no cash contribution jar displayed on the table. If an individual host sold booze at the tailgate party, he would have likely violated state liquor laws.

So, does the individual tailgate party host have any liability coverage for the party?

NO YOU DO NOT !! If you have a Homeowners Insurance Policy, you have no liability coverage built in for off-promotions activities like a tailgate party. In Section II, Exclusions, E. Coverage E, 4. "Insured's Premises Not An Insured Location:" Bodily injury or property damage arising out of a premises rented to an insured. "It could be argued that if you paid for parking, you rented the space you occupy in the parking lot. But the exclusion still stands.

An individual throwing a tailgate party should buy a one-day event liability insurance policy to protect their assets.

Does a business throwing a tailgate party have any liability coverage for the party?

YOU MAY HAVE COVERAGE dependent upon the liability policy you carry. In the Commercial General Liability Coverage Form CG0001, the "coverage territory" is defined as the United States of America. That protects you at off-site locations.

Businesses – Remember that even if you carry adequate insurance – called "host liquor liability insurance coverage" – it will not apply, and will not protect your business if alcoholic beverages are being sold at your party. You should purchase additional liquor liability insurance coverage before the party.

A business throwing a tailgate party should consider hiring a separate bartender or caterer to serve alcohol. He will know better when to say 'No' to a guest who's had one too many. The hired bartender should have his own liability insurance and provide you a copy of his insurance certificate BEFORE the party. Instruct the bartender / caterer to notify an appropriate event manager if he finds someone who's had too much to drink.

In closing, do not look at this article as a "buzz kill." Consider that I'm the lighthouse on the shore, alerting you to the rocks and shoals. Avoid them, and your tailgate party will be a rousing success !!