When Holiday Parties Get Too Joyous: Host Liability

Once the holiday meals are planned, the decorations are up, and the presents are wrapped, it’s time to celebrate. For many people, that means holidays parties! Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year, or just the sweater weather, a holiday party is a great reason to eat, drink, and be merry.

But who is liable when things get too joyous? If you’re planning to host or attend a party this holiday season, here is what you need to know.

Florida Stautes: What the Law Says

If you’re hosting a party, one of your biggest concerns should be alcohol. While it’s the perfect time of year for spiked eggnog, you can be liable as a host if a guest causes injuries. According to Florida Statutes, a host can be liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to someone who is “habitually addicted to the use” of alcoholic beverages. For instance, if a host knows that a certain guests has a history of heavy drinking, but continues to allow them to drink despite clear intoxication, they could be liable if that guest causes an accident on their way home.

However, if the guests are adults, much of the liability falls on them. In many cases, it is up to adult guests to make their own responsible decisions. The people around them are not always going to be liable for any resulting injuries or fatalities. That said, it is always important to encourage healthy behavior among party guests. Hosts should make a point to not over-serve guests. They should also encourage intoxicated guests to call an Uber or get a ride with a sober friend.

Underage Drinking

When it comes to a party with minor guests, liability can get a bit more complex. If someone under 21 is served alcohol, the person who hosted the party may be liable. In fact, according to Florida’s “open house party” law, it is actually illegal to host a party in which alcohol is knowingly being consumed by minors under the age of 21. So if you’re turning a blind eye to the drinking that is happening at your teen’s holiday party, watch out. Not only is underage drinking irresponsible and dangerous, but you could be held accountable for any injuries.

Tips for a Festive and Safe Party

While it’s important to protect yourself and your guests, it’s still possible to have a fun and safe holiday party by following these tips:

  • Provide a meal or heavy snacks for your guests—or ask guests to bring a favorite dish to share
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverage options, like sparkling water or juices
  • Encourage guests to have a safe ride home, and call an Uber or taxi for anyone who needs it
  • Do a “last call” and stop serving alcohol near the end of the party
  • For a big party, consider hiring a bartender for the night
  • If you have teens, make sure they know about the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving, and be sure to always set a positive example for them

Happy holidays from Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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