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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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