Hosts of New Year's parties aren't liable concerning alcohol

By Stephen Hooker - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We're nearing the closing of 2010. The ball signifying a new year soon will be dropping, and for many, the drinks will be pouring toward the countdown to the new year. But if fun is not met with caution, some could easily land in big trouble.

Champagne is one of the traditional ways to celebrate the new year. "Toasting champagne for the ball to drop," said Catherine Gregory.

"We got some nice expensive cheap wine," said Carlisle Reams.

But can your guests make it home safely? If they don't, what's your responsibility? After all, you filled their glasses. "There is no liability for the host who serves the intoxicated guest," said attorney Christian Stegmaier.

That right -- no liability. You're off the hook.

Of course, if you're a bartender, you can be sued for millions. It's already happened here.

And common sense advocates caution, even if you're hosting a house party. "Some slick lawyer's going to work his way around that one," said Reams.

"The folks who bring suits, lawyers who advocate for injured persons, are very creative and very crafty," said Stegmaier.

And that's a lawyer talking about lawyers.

But is it really about liability and digging out your insurance policy? After all, these intoxicated people are your friends and relatives. "No drinking and driving," said Gregory. "You have drink and cut them off or spend the night."

"We all have a responsibility to one another to do the right thing and that's what a private homeowner or party host should do," said Stegmaier.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety says if they catch you driving drunk, you will go to jail. According to the national highway traffic safety administration, someone dies every 30 minutes in a dui-related crash.

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