Social Host Liability Opinion

By Paul Mitchell, Q.C.
Categories: Blog, Personal Injury

Supreme Court Case on Social Host Liability
 
I am concerned that many people may not know the details of this recent Supreme Court of Canada case, and may mistakingly believe that social hosts now have no duty whatsoever to their guests.
Like all cases, you have to read the entire judgement. This case involved a BYOB party. The court concluded the hosts did not "assume control over the supply or service of alcohol", nor did they "knowingly serve alcohol to someone they knew was visibly impaired". So on the specific facts of this case, the SCC found no liability on the hosts.
But what would happen if the host supplied and served the alcohol, and continued to serve someone who was visibly impaired, knowing that they would be driving home?
What if the guest is so drunk that they are not capable of exercising good judgment, which is the hall-mark of acting responsibly?
The SCC has left the door open to find partial liability on the host in this situation.And so they should in my view..
The SCC states in it’s judgement, "It might be argued that a host who continues to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated person knowing that he or she will be driving home has become implicated in the creation or enhancement of a risk sufficient to give rise to a prima facie duty of care to third parties… We need not decide that question here."
The SCC stated further that  "A social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest’s actions, unless the host’s conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk."
So there may still be partial liability attributed to a social host who supplies and serves alcohol, and continues to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated guest, who the host knows will be attempting to drive home.
Many applaud the SCC case as one that supports "individual responsibility".
But do not forget your individual responsibility as a host.
If you are inviting guests over for a dinner or a party, and are suppling and serving the alcohol, do not serve someone who is visibly intoxicated, who you suspect is not able capable of acting responsibly, when you know they will be driving home.In my view it would be like handing a loaded gun to someone who is drunk.
For a host to deny partial responsibility in this situation defies common sense.
Forget the legal liability issue.Think of the parent or child that may get seriously injured or killed because of the drunk you let loose on the road.
The vast majority of "accidents" are not accidents They are entirely preventable.
Accept your own "individual responsibility" as a host. Use common sense, and maybe save someone’s life.

Opinion by Pushor Mitchell personal injury lawyer Paul Mitchell: (250) 869-1115 or mitchell@pushormitchell.com