Yards, pools, lakeside cottages — summer is a time for getting together with good friends over a few drinks. What happens when those friends drive off intoxicated? What happens when they injure themselves or others as a result of their impaired state? Is the host responsible in law?
This is a question even the leading Court in Canada (the Supreme Court of Canada, or SCC) has considered. In the case of Childs v. Desormeaux, 2006 SCC 18, Desormeaux attended a BYOB party at Childs’ home. He consumed 12 beers over the 2.5 hours he attended the party and then drove away into a head-on collision. Mr Desmoreaux’ degree of intoxication was unknown to the hosts when he got into his vehicle that night. In hearing the case, the SCC held 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”
Potentially, that decision also means that there ARE circumstances where a host’s conduct CAN implicate him or her in the creation or exacerbation of risk and in those cases, a host can be considered liable.
As a social host, you need to know that you should always carry good liability insurance for your household. However, as personal injury lawyers, our focus is what that means for an injured person.
What it means is if you have been injured while not on your own property, even if you were at least partially the author of your own misfortune, you MAY have recourse against the property owner. And…the property owner likely has an insurance policy to provide compensation for your loss.
WHAT THAT MEANS TO YOU AS AN INJURED PERSON
If you have suffered a serious injury because you have fallen off a balcony, taken a shallow dive in someone’s pool or off a dock, fallen out of a tree, tripped in a yard or suffered an auto accident after attending a social function and having alcohol, you may have a viable lawsuit. The SCC has left the door open for social host cases. Every circumstance is different. I recommend you contact us and let us explore whether you are entitled to damages for your losses.