The high price of hospitality

The Madison County Record Sep. 3, 2011, 3:30am

If you like to have friends over and entertain, you know how the costs of hospitality can escalate. Depending on how many guests you invite, you can shell out quite a few bucks for drinks and hors d'oeuvres – even if it's just lite beer and pretzel sticks.

Add a disco ball and a DJ, and it can get up there. Quality entertainment isn't cheap.

Still, you wouldn't expect to pay as much as Jimmy and Patricia Ross might have to. The O'Fallon couple had just one guest over, but they're looking at a potential bill of more than $50,000.

Sounds like a heck of a party, doesn't it? Only it wasn't really a party, and the fifty grand isn't the tab for white zin, California rolls, and a brass quintet. It's the compensation their guest is demanding for the injuries he allegedly incurred in their home while enjoying their hospitality.

Johnnie Robinson claims to have slipped and fallen on the Rosses' basement stairs while visiting them two years ago, injuring his head, neck, shoulder, back, hip, groin, and buttocks. Apparently, his thighs, calves, and feet escaped unscathed.

This past month, Robinson filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County Circuit Court accusing the Rosses of negligence. He alleges that the couple failed to inspect their own stairway or to warn him that it lacked a handrail.

Whether Robinson prevails or not, it's a good bet the Rosses will be warier from now on when entertaining.

Homeowners may want to rethink their hospitality. To be on the safe side, they should ask all guests to sign waivers, acknowledging that their home has its share of household hazards – staircases that connect higher and lower places, stove tops that generate heat, tubs that are wet when water is added, ceiling fans with appendages that are called blades, etc.

Or maybe they should stop being friendly altogether and just glare at folks from the windows of their once-welcoming homes.

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