Everything You Need To Know About Legal Liability At Your Event: Part One

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

One of the more irksome sides of event planning involves the sorting out of legal details. If someone gets injured, who foots the bill? If the venue ends up being damaged, who’s responsible for repairing it? None of this stuff is particularly exciting or pleasant, but it needs to be done. Liability – particularly in the case of accident or injury – is something that should be a concern of every event management professional and supplier in the industry.

With any event, there are three types of liability with which you’ll have to be concerned.

The first of these is contractual liability. It’s essentially exactly what it sounds like: an obligation that’s tied to a written agreement of some kind. Say, for example, a catering organization has agreed to provide food and drink for a business conference. Assuming they’ve signed on it, that organization is now contractually obligated – or liable – to provide those supplies, just as the event manager is liable for providing payment to the catering company.

Next up is statute or statutory liability.  This one is directly related to the law as written – for example, there exist a number of laws and regulations related to building occupancy. You are required, as an event management professional, to pay attention to these regulations where they pertain to your venue. Failure to do so can result in, among other penalties, a rather hefty fine.   

Last, but certainly not least, there’s tortious or “tort” liability, and it may well be the most complicated of the three. It’s tied to who’s responsible for accident or injury. As before, I’ll give an example. Let’s say that someone attending one of your events injures themselves, and ends up destroying part of the venue in the process. Your might find yourself held tortiously liable for both their injury and contractually liable for the damage done to the venue.

Now that we’ve worked out the basics of the three ‘types’ of liability, let’s go into a little bit more depth. As an event planner, what specific events and incidents do you need to worry about where liability is concerned? Moreover, how can you reduce this liability to its absolute, bare minimum?

Contractual liability is probably the most important of the three ‘types,’ as it tends to override the other two. Your contract stipulates who is liable in any given circumstance. Making sure this contract is extensive and well-written is imperative, more so than virtually any other concern. It’s probably a good idea to get a lawyer or two involved here. You want to make sure that if something goes south, you’re covered.

Trust me: there’s a whole laundry list of things that can go wrong at your event, none of which you want to be held legally responsible for. Ensuring you’ve got a contract on hand can significantly cut down on risk. As an added bonus, it’ll also ensure that any party which doesn’t pull its own weight can be held responsible for it.  It’s basically a matter of shelling out a bit of cash for a lawyer, or shelling out a lot of cash to make up for a crisis.

The choice should be an easy one.

Ironing out the legal details surrounding an event is an extremely important step in the planning process. As an event planner, it’s up to you to know and understand the different types of liability, and to take steps to reduce any risks you might encounter. Putting together a well-written contract is a good first step – but it’s not the only thing you need to do.