The State of Florida has a relatively limited social host act. Florida’s social host act imposes liability on homeowners in certain circumstances. If you are involved when a guest of yours injures or kills another person due to alcohol consumption at your home, your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover the loss, provided that you have adequate coverage. In South Florida, our experienced property insurance claim attorneys have handled cases involving social host liability. You, as the insured have the right to have your insurance company deal with you in good faith. Failure to do so could lead to you having claims for damages against your insurance company.
Florida’s electorate narrowly drew the state’s social host liability statute. In Florida, there is no legal liability for a party host if the host serves the partygoer too much alcohol when the partygoer injures another (or themselves) because of alcohol consumption on the host’s premises. The statute has two exceptions to that general rule. First, the host is liable for injuries caused by a minor to whom the host knowingly and willingly served alcohol. Second, the host is responsible for injuries caused by a host who overserves alcohol to a person the host knows has an addiction to alcohol. The host is responsible for damages caused by individuals who fall into one of the exceptions.
Additionally, Florida’s open house party statute also forbids a person who is in control of premises from having an open house party which minors attend and alcohol or drugs are dispensed. The host, in that case, must take reasonable precautions to prevent the minors from obtaining the alcohol and drugs. Failure to take that precaution is a criminal offense. Violation of this law is a second-degree misdemeanor unless the minor causes death or serious bodily injury to another as a result of the alcohol or drug consumption is a first-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by 60 days in jail, and a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a one-year maximum jail sentence.
The law has parts that are vague. The legislature would do well to revise some of the language in the social host statute. For instance, the government should clarify what the duty is of a homeowner to know if any of their guests have an addiction to alcohol. Also, the statute is silent in the instance when a minor takes a bottle of alcohol off of a table in the middle of a party and consumes it. Statutes should be clear so that the people who must abide by them know what behavior violates the law.
With the background of the law surrounding Florida’s social host laws, it is critical to understand how your homeowner’s insurance policy can protect you from civil liability if your guest injures another. Your standard homeowner’s insurance policy should cover, or indemnify you, for a claim filed against you for a violation of Florida’s social host law. Appropriate insurance coverage for your home can help save you from financial ruin. For example, if you own a house with homeowner’s liability policy for general liability protection up to $200,000 and a victim of a crash sues you, then your insurance carrier will indemnify you against a judgment for an amount not exceeding $200,000. An excess judgment that is one exceeding $200,000 in this scenario means that you are personally responsible for paying the amount of the judgment that exceeds your policy limits. Therefore it is advisable to purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy that will cover your potential exposure. Some insurance agents suggest having a $300,000 policy or a $500,000 policy. You also have the option of obtaining an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy comes into effect when the judgment exceeds the liability limits of your homeowner’s policy.
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