The tailgate party and liability

We are only a few weeks away from the fall soccer season. Millions of rabid football fans will throw food and drinks into their favorite vehicle and drive to the football stadium parking lots. When they arrive, the grills are rolled out, tables and chairs are set up, team flags and banners are hoisted, and the ice chests are filled with great drinks.

Well, why would I spoil the festive party spirit with an article on liability?

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

I’m going to talk about tailgate parties hosted by both individuals and corporations as some of the potential issues are the same.

Problem number one: is your legal liability at the venue of football. You park in a public car park. They can be parked in a private parking lot. But either way, someone else owns the ground you’re sitting on. So they could be held legally liable if a guest is injured on their premises. The problem arises when your participation is included. When you take up space with your truck, RV, coach, or tent along with tables, chairs, grills, and the like, you increase the number of things that can cause personal injury. Chairs fall over, people trip over objects, grilles explode… and the personal injuries wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for your tailgate party.

Problem number two: is the injury of others by spoiled food. Tailgate parties often last many hours. Food sits on tables waiting for guests to load their plates. But if someone gets food poisoning from food they ate at your tailgate party, you could be held liable for their injuries, medical expenses, lost income from being unable to work, or even death.

To minimize the risk of spoiled food, be sure to keep your hot food hot and your cold food cold. Use covered dishes and disposable plates and utensils. And avoid 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 is injured or injures others at the tailgate party, at the football stadium, or on the drive home because they are drunk, you could be held legally liable for the delivery of the alcoholic beverages to them.

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

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

Arrange transport for drunk guests when they leave the tailgate party with some of your alcohol in their stomachs. Call a taxi, put specific drivers or take them home in your vehicle.

Do not sell alcoholic beverages at the tailgate party. No cash bar, no cash donation jar on the table. If a single host sold alcohol at the tailgate party, they likely would have violated state liquor laws.

So does the individual host of the tailgate party have liability insurance for the party?

NO YOU DO NOT!! If you have homeowners insurance, you don’t have liability coverage for off-site activities like a tailgate party. In Section II, Exclusions, E. Coverage E, 4. “Insured’s premises, no insured location: “Bodily injury or property damage resulting from a building rented to an Insured.” It could be argued that if you are for paid for parking have rented the space in the car park you occupy, but the exclusion remains.

A person throwing a tailgate party should take out one-day event liability insurance to protect their assets.

Does a company hosting a tailgate party have liability insurance for the party?

YOU MAY HAVE INSURANCE depending on your liability policy. In Commercial General Liability Coverage Form CG0001, the “territory” is defined as the United States of America. That protects you in offsite locations.

Business – Remember that even if you have adequate insurance – known as “host liability insurance” – it will not apply and will not protect your business if alcoholic beverages are being sold at your party. You should take out additional liability insurance before the party.

A business hosting a tailgate party should consider hiring a separate bartender or caterer to serve alcohol. He’ll know better when to say “no” to a guest who’s had one too many. The dedicated bartender should have their own liability insurance and provide you with a copy of their insurance certificate BEFORE the party. Instruct the bartender/caterer to notify a designated event manager if they find someone who has had too much to drink.

Finally, don’t consider this article a “buzz kill.” Remember that I am the lighthouse on the shore, alerting you to the rocks and shallows. Avoid them and your tailgate party will be a hit!!

About the author