In this time of heightened awareness of security and safety issues, what's a meeting planner to do (or not do) to protect attendees? Where do you draw the line when it comes to due diligence?
As a meeting planner, you are not obligated to guarantee anyone's safety and security — although you should strive to do so. Your minimum legal obligation is to investigate and disclose what you find.
For example, you might investigate a facility's security procedures and plans, and pass the findings to the people deciding whether to host the event there. It's not up to you to determine if the plans are adequate. However, if you did question the adequacy of those plans, then you are expected to hire an appropriate security expert to provide advice.
In legal terms, this is known as “duty of care.” It requires that one conduct reasonable due diligence and publicize the results to the people to whom the duty of care is owed. Although different meetings present different issues and no list can cover every contingency, the following checklist will help you decide which due diligence questions to ask:
Is a contract properly signed and executed?
Are clauses limiting liability or indemnifying persons sufficient to protect the planner's group or not so broad as to expose the group to excessive liability?
Does the group have an adequate escape clause (e.g. termination or cancellation provision, acts of God clause)?
Will adequate security be maintained?
Is there general liability insurance?
Are all activities at the meeting covered by the general liability insurance or is special coverage needed?
Are limits of liability adequate? Has the meeting planner assumed special obligations because of a hold harmless or indemnification provision?
Is product liability, host liquor liability, or dram shop liability insurance needed?
Is it necessary to have cancellation insurance to cover fire, weather, labor strikes, transportation disruption, civil unrest, acts of God, or war?
Are facilities up to code? Are there sprinklers, smoke detectors, etc.?
Does the facility train its employees in safety and security measures?
Does the facility meet physical barriers and access requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act?
Have reasonable accommodations been made to meet the auxiliary aid needs of the ADA?
Is it necessary to retain a local expert to provide an review of safety conditions and plans?
Are there plans for responding to a medical emergency or natural disaster? How about a national emergency, labor strike, or disruption of transportation?
Have safety and security guidelines or plans been circulated to all attendees?
Jed R. Mandel is a partner in the Chicago-based law firm of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, where he heads the trade and professional association practice.