Social Host Responsibility for Accidents - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Social Host Responsibility for Accidents


Most people hosting a party or gathering at their home are more concerned about having enough food and beverages for their guests than they are about being held responsible if someone has too much to drink and is involved in an accident. Canadian courts have made it clear that a bar or restaurant serving alcohol to a customer could be held liable if an intoxicated patron is injured in an accident. The law is not as clear as far as the responsibility of a social host for injuries suffered by an intoxicated guest.

Distinction between social hosts and commercial establishments

social host is someone serving alcohol to guests without expectation of payment in return. This is in contrast to a bar or restaurant that charges patrons for drinks. Commercial establishments can be liable if they serve alcohol to a patron who is injured in an accident if it was foreseeable that the person would be injured as a result of becoming intoxicated. This is based upon the negligence of the establishment.

If it can be proven that a business or an individual was negligent, a victim injured as a result could sue for compensation. Proving negligence requires evidence establishing the following:

  • A duty was owed by the negligent party to the victim
  • There was a breach of that duty
  • The breach resulted in harm or injury

In situations involving commercial establishments, the bar or restaurant owes a duty to its customers not to serve alcohol to them beyond the point of intoxication. If they violate this duty and the customer is harmed in an accident while driving home, the business could be held responsible. Less clear is the duty a social host has to his or her guests.

Social hosts and the duty owed to guests

Courts have held that absent a close relationship between the host and guest, the same duty owed by businesses the customers does not exist between social hosts and guest at a party or other gathering. However, serving alcohol to a guest who is obviously intoxicated and allowing the person to drive away could be a breach of the duty of care the host owed to the guest.

Liability in such a situation would be based on the host owing a duty to take steps to prevent an intoxicated guest from driving, having an accident and being injured. The cases in which a social host was held responsible involved injuries to a guest who was related to the host either as parent-child or niece-uncle.

Using the Occupiers’ Liability Act to establish host liability

As the owner of a home in Ontario, you could be held liable for injuries to a guest involved in an accident on your property under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. The law makes owners and persons in possession of property responsible for injuries suffered by someone, such as a guest, who is lawfully on the property. If you serve alcohol at a party and a guest is injured, you could be held responsible under the Ontario statute.

The law appears to be limited to injuries suffered in accidents on your premises. For instance, an intoxicated guest who trips and falls walking down stairs at your home might have a claim for compensation under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, but the law might not extend to accidents occurring away from the property.

Personal injury lawyers can help

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamondhave extensive experience obtaining compensation for injuries suffered by guests at parties and other gatherings throughout Ontario. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout Ontario.

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