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Hosts of New Year's parties in Arizona can be liable for guests' actions

PHOENIX -- Throwing a New Year's party at home could be a good alternative to going out if you're looking to keep all your friends and family safe. However, other dangers lure that can put the host in a vulnerable situation.

The "social host," as described by civil attorney Marc Lamber from the firm Fennemore Craig is anyone considered under the law to be individuals or businesses that host functions where alcohol is served. They can be held liable in Arizona if alcohol is served to anyone under 21 who is then injured or causes anyone to be injured, he said.

"There's potential criminal liability on top of civil liability," Lamber said about serving to minors. "There's not a lot of wiggle room. If that person who is 19 years old goes out and is involved in an accident and they injure someone, you are the one who is using potential exposure."

Plan ahead of time if you'll be throwing a party with alcohol involved -- whether it is having taxi service available for your guests to get home or having a designated driver.

Hire a bartender for the evening, Lamber suggested.

"Someone who is more versed in serving alcohol and can look at the signs of intoxication and can cut people off," he said.

As a last resort, Lamber recommended taking keys away from friends and family who appear too drunk to drive.

As far as teenagers and young adults heading to a party, Lamber brings up Arizona's Family Purpose Doctrine. The concept of a such a doctrine has to do with holding parents responsible for the actions of any family member who may drive one of the family cars, regardless of whether he or she knows about it or has granted permission.

"If you allow them to use your vehicle, and have an accident in your vehicle, then you as a parent are responsible," the attorney said.

Having enough car and injury insurance is also key. Arizona only requires $15,000 in liability coverage per person.

"We recommend to carry uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage," Lambert added. "It provides insurance coverage so if you're involved in an accident and the other driver doesn't have enough, then it gives you insurance where you otherwise would not have any."

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About the Author


Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.

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