Don't fumble the ball when hosting Super Bowl parties

By , Posted on 29 January 2013

super bowl party host insurance issuesOn my ultimate list of buzz-kill moments, in the Megna Top 10 are the two Super Bowl losses to the Giants by my beloved New England Patriots.

I've been a fan my whole life, which means before Gillette Stadium, and way before the Kraft-Brady-Belichick era. As a child, I remember the bum call in the Oakland Raiders game in the 70s that dashed our playoff hopes. I later delighted when we won the tuck-rule game and went on to become champs of the league with three Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003 and 2004.  (Note to Pats haters: Get over it already!) I was also at the infamous game in 1982 when the Pats won against Miami by one field goal after the snowplow cleared the field, which I like to mention whenever I get the chance, so just sayin'.

Back to the future…things have not been as rosy for the Pats lately. Despite being depressed after the last two bowl losses, I'm not devastated that they lost to cryin' Ray Lewis and the Ravens, because I honestly don't think they would have beat the Niners had they made it to the Super Bowl. But there are worse things that could happen during playoff season other than your team losing. Having a guest at your Super Bowl bash get food poisoning or in a drunken driving accident on the way home is the worst upset of all. (See: "The problem with having people over.")

"Hosts shouldn’t drop the ball regarding their responsibilities. They need to be aware that if someone drives drunk or becomes sick after consuming food at their party, the host could actually be liable," Robert Rusbuldt, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA), said in a statement.  

A recent survey by IIABA found that almost three-fourths of homeowners had served food in their home that was prepared by someone other than themselves.

That means more than 111 million homeowners in the United States have put themselves at risk for a lawsuit by just feeding their guests, according to the IIABA. (See: "Does homeowners insurance cover food poisoning?")

"Whether the food served came from your kitchen, a pizza delivery truck or a five-star caterer, if you serve it, you could be liable if anyone gets sick," Madelyn Flannagan, IIABA vice president for education and research, said in a statement. "Even a simple neighborhood Super Bowl potluck could have disastrous results for the host if someone is stricken with food-poisoning."

Some useful reminders from the IIABA so you don't get penalized for your Super Bowl party:

Study the host playbook. When hosting a party, you should look to the liability portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy to protect yourself if you are sued and found liable for an accident involving a guest who drank or got sick after consuming food at your home. You should regularly review your liability coverage limits to ensure you are adequately covered should an accident or illness occur.  (See: "Super Bowl partying can lead to fumbles and stumbles.")

Know the rules of the game. In many states, party hosts can be held liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. Many courts have found hosts liable for damages their party guests cause as a result of consuming alcohol and then driving motor vehicles. Many states have also enacted statutes that can be interpreted as mandating non-commercial social host liability. So, if a guest or third party is injured in an accident that is related to alcohol consumption and the drinking can be linked to you, you could be held responsible for the payment of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and -- in the worst case -- claims for wrongful death resulting in huge monetary settlements. (See: "Throwing a Super Bowl Party? Make sure your guests drive home sober.")

Consider an umbrella policy. While party-goers and hosts alike should act responsibly and know their limits, you need to acknowledge that most risks cannot be entirely eliminated. But planning ahead and learning about what’s involved in hosting a Bowl bash is the best defense. Purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy — providing $1 million or more in additional coverage over the limit of a standard homeowners or renters policy — may be a prudent move for the frequent party host. 


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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.


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