In May 2019, in the early morning hours a teenager was fatally shot while attending a prom after-party in Whitchurch-Stouffville. The criminal investigation is still in the preliminary stages; however, it has been determined that the location of the prom after-party was an Airbnb rental property.
In the weeks and months to come, the people and communities affected by this tragic incident will be trying to come to grips with these questions: who is responsible for this tragedy and what could have been done to prevent it from happening?
Generally, when a teenager is injured or killed at a house party, determining who is legally responsible is governed by an area of our law called “social host liability.” Social hosts have a responsibly to their guests and the social hosts may be found liable if their guests are injured or killed at the party (or after leaving the party), particularly if the guest is invited, underage and exhibiting signs of impairment at the party. Social hosts may be found liable even if they did not provide any alcohol to their guests. Click here for further information about social host liability.
In this case, there is an added wrinkle because the prom after-party was held at an Airbnb rental property. Early reporting suggests that the party was held in a large house on a secluded property without adult supervision. As such, it may be a stretch for our Courts to impose social host liability on parents, teachers, etc. who were not at the party and had no duty or ability to supervise. Our Courts have yet to impose social host liability on the owners of Airbnb rental property.
Parents, there is a valid belief that we would prefer our children to party in our homes, so that we can know what our children are doing. However, if you are planning to allow a prom after-party (or any party) in your home where there will be teenagers drinking alcohol, you need to take proper care and provide full supervision. To avoid liability, you need to be responsible and be able to respond to any situation that arises at the party (that means being present, visible, and sober) and be ready to treat every guest with the level of care and supervision you would provide your own child.
Harrison is an associate lawyer at Oatley Vigmond. He graduated from the University of Windsor with a Juris Doctor (J.D.), as well as the University of Guelph, earning an Honours Bachelor of Arts in...