By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC, CPIA

If you’re planning a big Superbowl party for this Sunday you’re probably worrying about having the right mix of snacks, finding a great dipping sauce, ensuring you’re fully stocked with your guests’ drinks of choice, and keeping the grocery bill for it all from getting out of control.  

But what if someone gets sick from food that accidentally got tainted? 

Would you have to pay their medical bills? Would your homeowner’s insurance cover that?

The chances of this happening may seem slim, but, every year, 1 out of every 6 people gets a foodborne illness. Of those who get sick, 128,000 end up going to the hospital and 3,000 of them die. 

If a guest goes to the emergency room with food-related illness, the bill could run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. 

So if you’re hosting a big party with lots of food, it’s worth giving this some thought. 

Hiring a caterer isn’t a solution. As a homeowner, you are still legally liable for catered food served at your home that ends up making someone sick. 

Your guest’s own health insurance should over the costs. But if a guest is not insured for some reason or underinsured then those costs could fall to you. A homeowner’s insurance policy does cover claims arising from medical bills of others who are on your property with your permission. This coverage is usually capped at $1,000 to $5,000 per guest, which should be high enough to absorb those emergency room bills. 

However, in some cases, a guest who got seriously ill could sue you for additional damages due to ‘pain and suffering’ they experienced. In this instance, another part of your homeowner’s insurance policy would kick in – your personal liability coverage. 

Usually, friends who come over are unlikely to forward you their medical bills or slap you with a lawsuit over food poisoning which is accidental. Your risk will be higher if you are hosting a big party with guests whom you do not know very well. It’s best to make sure you know everyone who is on your guest list. 

Proving that an illness was actually caused by food you served can be difficult, since food the guest ate earlier could also be at issue. But if more than one person gets sick, a court may be more likely to side with the claimants. Your liability coverage will apply in these cases, but you don’t want it to have to get to this point. 

Save yourself the headache – and your guests’ potential stomachaches – by following basic food preparation safety tips. Check out these basic guidelines here and here

Source: Adapted from the December 24, 2021 edition of The CSR Advisor published by The Standard Publishing Corp.