If one of your guests gets hurt or dies in your home, you may be financially responsible. The Indiana Supreme Court recently decided in the case of F. John Rogers, as Personal Representative of Paul Michalik, Deceased, and R. David Boyer, Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Jerry Lee Chambers vs. Angela Martin and Brian Paul Brothers that a homeowner could be liable for the death of a guest in her home who died following a fight during a party.
The Court explained that under premises liability law, a homeowner owes its guests a duty to exercise reasonable care for the guests’ protection while on the premises.
In this case, the duty was not to protect the guest from an unforeseeable fight and the following injuries caused by the fight, but to protect the guest for the foreseeable exacerbation of that injury occurring on the premises. It is important to note from the Court’s opinion that a homeowner is not an insurer for all social guests’ safety, but you do have a duty to protect your guests from foreseeable injuries that happen at your home.
This case also involved the Indiana Dram Shop Act (Ind. Code § 7.1-5-10-15), which is an Indiana state law that imposes civil liability for furnishing alcohol to visibly intoxicated people who themselves cause injury. The Court ultimately found that law was not applicable to the facts underlying this case, but all homeowners should be reminded of it nonetheless.