Social Host Liability: Could You Be Legally Responsible For Injuries To Your Intoxicated Guests?
The obligation that social hosts have towards their guests is referred to as “social host liability”. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that a social host is not responsible if a guest leaves their party, drives while impaired and injures a third party. However, a recent Ontario decision suggests that social hosts could be held responsible if their guest is injured after an event.
In a legal decision released in February 2017, Wardak v. Froom, the court left open the possibility that a social host could be held responsible if an intoxicated guest becomes injured after leaving their event. In that case, the plaintiff left the party on foot, went home and got into his car and was involved in a serious single vehicle accident. He sued the hosts of the party he had been drinking at that night. The court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case before trial.
Social hosts may be held liable if an intoxicated guest is injured, even if the hosts did not serve alcohol. This is particularly the case if the guest was invited and underage.
In the Wardak case, the judge considered the following factors, which could inform social hosts of their obligations to guests:
• the defendants knew that there was drinking at the party and that some guests were underage;
• the defendants were monitoring the party and went down to the basement to check on the party guests;
• the defendants did not try to stop the underage plaintiff from drinking after they first saw him acting ‘odd’;
• the plaintiff lived nearby and his father was home, and arguably could have been called to provide assistance, which the defendants did not do.
If you are hosting an event, it is important to ensure your guests do not drink and drive. Offer food and non-alcoholic beverages, a place to stay the night if necessary, and make sure everyone has a designated driver or a safe way home early on in the night.
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