It’s hard to believe that the grand finale of summer is a few days away. Like many other fellow Americans, you want to send off summer in style, by either heading out of town, attending a party, or hosting a party of your own. If you choose the last of those three options, there is a minefield of liability to be mindful of when hosting a party at your house, and you cannot always rely on homeowner’s insurance to get you out of it.
A homeowner in Indiana made that kind of reliance on his homeowner’s insurance when the family dog caused an injury to a friend, who was a guest in his house. On appeal, it was determined that the homeowner was still responsible for the dog, even though the guest was tending to the dog when the injury occurred. The injury caused by the dog was arguably foreseeable, a factor that courts look at in determining if a defendant can proceed with a lawsuit, like the one mentioned above. Foreseeability asks the question of whether or not the defendant could have foreseen the circumstances that led to the injury. The other factor that could effect a homeowner in a personal injury suit against a houseguest is whether there was a duty of care; typically homeowners will be seen by courts as having this duty, because it’s up to them to act towards guests with necessary “watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence.” While homeowner’s insurance may not make you as bulletproof as you once thought when it comes to lawsuits, there are ways to minimize your liability for potentially foreseeable harm to your houseguests and still cap off summer in style.
As the homeowner in Indiana learned the hard way, not only can our pets be our best friends, they can be our worst enemy at times. While the law gives pet owners some protection under the law in the event that Fido bites a houseguest, homeowners with pets are strictly liable for any their dangerous actions. However, there are some steps you can take to minimize your liability. First, give your pet a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of your party; sometimes the noise of a party can cause your pet stress and having a room they can go to with food and water could be what the doctor orders for their anxiety. Next, set some ground rules with your guests regarding your pets, especially those guests who are not used to being around animals; this way they understand what to expect and how to properly react when your furry friend is around the house. Finally, a little obedience training goes a long way; teaching your dog how to properly react around strangers will give you one less thing to worry about as you are busy facilitating the fun at your party.
One of the most obvious, but often overlooked liability issues is the slip-and-fall accident. If you have any hardwood or tiled floors in your house, chances are some portion of drinks will make their way to the floor or people who come in from swimming in the pool will leave some excess water, leaving hazards for people to potentially slip and fall. To minimize the chances of someone hurting themselves on these slippery hazards, blocking that segment of the floor off until you can clean it will give your guests enough warning to stay away from that part of your house. Unfortunately, carpeting is not immune from causing potential injuries; wear and tear from everyday use can lead to parts of your carpet having edges sticking up, causing people to trip on these edges. If you don’t have the budget to pull up your entire carpet when it gets like this, putting throw rugs over these trouble spots can mitigate some risk.
While swimming pools are a welcome source of relief from the oppressive heat at parties, it can be an equally unwelcome headache when it comes to liability. When it comes to children at a party, swimming pools become more dangerous, because a drowning or near drowning can occur even if the adults are outside with the kids, near the pool. According to an authority on product safety, a drowning can happen “quickly and silently.” Besides putting a fence around the pool, you can put alarms in place to ensure that no one you want going into the pool, goes into the pool. Keeping toys out of the pool can be a very effective deterrent in keeping kids out of the pool and out of potential danger.
If you are homeowner, keeping some of these potential liabilities in mind and the simple ways to mitigate them should allow you to enjoy the waning hours of summer at your house with your friends. Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!