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

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

If something goes wrong at one of your events – which will happen eventually, no matter how skilled a planner you are – you need to make sure that you’ve got your legal bases covered. The first step in doing so is putting together an expansive, exhaustive contract which leaves no doubts as to liability.  That’s only going to take you so far, however.

In order to truly protect yourself (and whoever you’ve partnered with for an event), you’re going to have to fully account for both statute liability (the law as written) and tort liability (responsibility in the event of accident or injury).  Each ‘form’ of liability carries with it its own set of risks; managing these is just as vital to an event’s success as keynotes or catering.

First and foremost, do not use any licensed music or multimedia content without permission. If there are any songs, videos, or photos you want to use at your function, make absolutely certain you’ve the proper licenses for them. The fine for using copyrighted multimedia content could be anywhere from several thousand dollars to a lawsuit.

There are two primary ways you can deal with this issue. The first is to simply contact the content owner in order to obtain the license. Once you’ve worked out the details of how the work is to be used and where, you’re in the clear. Do this for every single piece of original content you plan to use with your event.

Alternatively, you can simply pull from the public domain and populate your event with unlicensed or original content (such as a live band, for example).

Next, you want to ensure that the venue in which you’re hosting is entirely up to code. Again, due diligence is key here. If you see any safety or security concerns connected to one of your potential venues…avoid it. That’s a can of worms you most assuredly do not want to open. Further, you’re going to want to ensure you set up a list of security best practices; consider how you’re going to deal with room bookings, identification, fire safety, and any other emergencies that might come up. Make sure you’ve several staff members working at any given time who are first-aid certified, as well.

If you’re hosting your event at a hotel, it’s doubly important for you to ensure the hotel staff is properly versed in security protocol.

It should also go without saying that your venue be wheelchair accessible, to avoid running afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Make every effort you can to accommodate any disabled guests.

Liquor liability is another roadblock you’re going to have to deal with if you intend to serve alcohol at your event. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the host state’s liquor laws, ensure the facility you’ve chosen is licensed to serve liquor, and ensure that all alcohol is served through a third-party supplier’s trained distributors. In the event that something goes wrong, they’ll shoulder the responsibility – not you. This is particularly important in the event of damage or injuries sustained as a result of liquor-related accidents. (See also: Five Tips for Serving Alcohol at Your Events)

You need to stipulate very clearly in your contract that the venue or supplier serving the liquor is to be held accountable for such incidents.   

It is further imperative that you limit how much liquor is served to guests, how much liquor is poured into each drink and for how long drinks will be served. Avoid having an open bar, and provide a mandatory drive-home service for inebriated guests. Do not, under any circumstances, allow minors to drink alcohol, and try to serve food before serving liquor.

Risk management is a vital element in event management. Failure to properly account for statutory or tort liability could easily be disastrous. By understanding the law, having a clear and extensive contract, and ensuring top-notch safety and security, you can avoid being held accountable for crises beyond your control, and instead focus on delivering a memorable, enjoyable function.