<em>Legally</em> <strong>Speaking</strong>


When beer and baseball don't mix: how to limit risks
Jim Juliano - Summer 2005

Sports and beer are a traditional match—and a profitable one for teams. But a New Jersey jury recently sent a strong message that not everything about this match is made in heaven.

Alcohol liability checklist

  Establish a clear and simple policy. Put it in writing.

  Train employees in the signs of intoxication.

  Obtain ample insurance coverage.

  Obtain coverage for third-party events at the ballpark.

The jury handed down a $105 million verdict against Aramark Corporation, concessionaire at Giants Stadium, and a $30 million verdict against a drunk driver in favor of a girl and her mother who were severely injured in a 1999 crash caused by the driver after he left a New York Giants football game. The driver had consumed numerous beers at the game and at least once had made a single purchase of six beers while tipping the Aramark vendor $20 to violate the two-beer-maximum rule, according to reports.

Also named as defendants were the Giants, the NFL and the New Jersey Exhibition Authority, owner of Giants Stadium. These defendants were dismissed for unstated reasons, although one report says they all settled before trial.

This case gives us the opportunity to provide several tips to reduce risks and liability exposure from alcohol sales at ballgames:

  • Teams and concessionaires should have clear and simple policies for all employees that require the cut-off of alcohol sales at a certain time (seventh inning, for example). The policies should be in writing. Sales to minors should be prohibited; identification should be required if the would-be buyer's age is questionable. The policies should require employees to report individuals who appear to be intoxicated.

  • The team should train employees in the signs of intoxication and how to handle intoxicated patrons. Training not only teaches the employees what to do, but also could save a life and will most certainly make a game more pleasant for other fans. Training also helps in the courtroom because it shows that the team is using commercially reasonable efforts to eliminate a foreseeable risk.

  • As a team owner, you should check your insurance coverage. It may be advisable to increase coverage. Remember that defense costs and your own attorney fees count against your deductible and your limits.

  • You should also obtain a certificate of insurance that names the team as an additional insured whenever promoters, the ballpark landlord or another third party holds an event at the ballpark that involves alcohol. Demand ample coverage. Even if your team is not directly involved in the event, an injured party will likely name it as a defendant in a claim.

The tragic incident in the Aramark case highlights the impact of decisions that your employees or concessionaire makes when serving alcohol. It is in the best interests of all parties, including your own business, to prevent a similar tragedy involving your team.




This website contains general information that should not be considered legal advice or legal opinion concerning individual situations. Legal counsel should be consulted for specific advice.

Copyright 2005 by L. James Juliano Jr.
Legally Speaking® is a registered trademark of the law practice of L. James Juliano Jr.