This is a real life situation in which a 21st birthday celebration turned into a lawsuit and a $601, 000 fine.

Picture this…

It’s your son’s 21st Party at your rural home with 40‑50 mature-aged guests and approximately 100 guests aged 20-21 years that have been invited. You have put a lot of thought into the planning, with beer and wine and food supplied, guests camping overnight so there is no drinking and driving, plus being a rural property you have first aid supplies, a fire blanket, and a fire extinguisher in the homestead just in case they are required.

The party is underway and at dusk, the electricity supply fails which lead to the water being cut off, and the toilets, cold rooms, and ovens all stop working.  You jump in the car to get fuel from the local store for the generator. You fill two large jerry cans and a third, smaller jerry can, thinking it should be enough for the night.  You get back and fill up the generator with fuel from the small jerry can and leave that in the back of the car and place the two large jerry cans in a secluded position with the intention of keeping them away from the partygoers.  The generators kick into life and the party keeps going.

At approximately 11.00 pm, you notice a grassfire that has started between the homestead and an adjacent shed, close to the dog kennels and your wife can smell unleaded fuel.  The small jerry can is found near the fire and ask your son to put it in the shed and you move the larger jerry cans into the shed.  The first is extinguished quickly and everyone returns to partying. 

At some point after midnight, one of the partygoers who is quite intoxicated, finds a swag, places it on the ground, and goes to sleep.  Other partygoers decide to bring him back to the party and think that waking him by dribbling fuel onto the Plaintiff’s lower shirt, a high part of his jeans, and igniting it.  The sleeping person sustains severe burns to their upper right arm, chest, and back, taking the party on a turn for the worse.

The next thing you know, you are in court and being sued for the incident and are being held responsible.

In this case, you were found 30% responsible and ordered to pay $600,797.55 in damages and racked up huge legal bills.

Does this story make you feel alarmed? If so, the good news is if you had a good Home and Contents Policy, you would be covered for this type of event.  (costs of employing a legal team and the damages to be paid as well)

For more information see Dearden v Ryan {2022} QSC 111

Give us a call if you need more information though, always here to help.

Note: this article contains general advice only & you should seek further information from your personal Rivers Insurance Broker about the impact of any information provided here on your personal or business needs. ABN: 28 010 242 681 AFS License: 247093

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