Social Host Liability - Do you know what you're responsible for?


The holiday season is here, and many people are preparing to celebrate the season and say farewell to the end of the year. If you plan to host an event at your home or business, it is important to be aware of your legal responsibilities. For instance, if an intoxicated party guests drives home and causes an accident, and the alcohol you served is considered a contributing factor, you could be held liable for the resulting damages and injuries.

Social Host Liability

Originally intended for licensed establishments, hosting liability has evolved to include social hosts who do not obtain financial benefits from their events. And while social hosts are not subject to the type of “tavern liability” that commercial establishments are, Canadian courts have held that social hosts do indeed owe a duty of care to both their guests and to other road users.

If you are hosting a work-related party this holiday season, keep in mind that employers may be subjected to liquor liability for an accident. Under common law, employers have a duty to their employees to ensure they are not intoxicated at work or during their trip home at the end of the day.

Occupier’s Liability

Occupier’s liability is a standard of liability owed to a person who owns, has possession of, or has responsibility for a premise. Unlike hosting liability, it is limited to incidents that occur on the premises. Occupier’s liability means that the owner or occupier of a premises, including a renter, is responsible for protecting guests on that premises from harm. As a party host, you may be responsible for injuries incurred by your guests as a result of the premises’ condition, guests’ conduct, and incidents resulting from the activities you allow to occur on the premises. Each of these scenarios can be triggered by the serving of alcohol.

Preventing a Liability Claim

As the host of a corporate or social function where alcohol is being served, there are a number of precautions you can take to limit your liability. Firstly, establish in advance and clearly communicate a zero tolerance drinking and driving policy. To ensure this policy is adhered to, consider asking your guests how they plan to get home at the end of the night, and pre-arranging designated drivers or taxis. When your guests arrive, confirm their plans to get home and distribute taxi chits.
If you are serving alcohol at your party, always make sure plenty of food is available. It is also prudent to limit the amount of alcohol available to guests by distributing drink tickets and setting up a cash bar for alcohol served beyond the ticket limit.
Seeing each guest to the door as they leave can allow you to establish if a guest is intoxicated and in need of either a ride or overnight accommodation. Your responsibility as the party host isn’t over until each of your guests has arrived home safely.

By remembering the information provided you will assist your guests with having an enjoyable celebration. If you or someone you know is injured over the holiday season, contact the lawyers at Will Davidson LLP for your no-obligation consultation.

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