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Throwing A Party This Holiday Season? Reduce Your Hosting Risks Without Looking Like A Scrooge

Nov 21 2018

The Christmas season is upon us and that often means attending holiday parties to celebrate, either formally (workplace or association) or informally (friends or family).  Whatever the occasion, as a social or commercial host, if you’re providing alcohol at your event, you should know that you can be found liable if intoxicated employees or party guests are injured or cause injury to others.

Social vs Commercial Hosts

A social host is someone who holds a party at a house for friends and family while a commercial host generally involves a business such as a pub, bar or restaurant. Social hosts can be held responsible for their guests’ actions and commercial hosts may be liable to the general public.

An employer often falls between the categories of social host and commercial host, meaning that liability for negligence can extend from damage to the guests themselves and/or to the general public. Liability may also extend beyond the time a guest is at a party to events that occur after the guest has left, including if that person continued drinking at another location.

Types of Host Liability

Provider Liability is liability that is limited to individuals who serve or provide alcohol to a person who they know, or ought to know, is already intoxicated. As a provider, you will not be held liable for serving alcohol in a reasonable manner, even if the individual served later causes or suffers an alcohol-related injury. Provider liability requires the over-service of alcohol plus the presence of some other risk factor, such as obvious signs of intoxication or knowledge that the intoxicated person plans to drive.

Occupiers’ Liability, on the other hand, is liability limited to alcohol-related injuries that occur on a property due to negligently failing to safeguard entrants. This means the property must be in a physical condition deemed to be safe enough so that people can enter and participate in the planned event. An occupier is defined as anyone who has control over the condition or activities on the property – such as renting a hall or hosting a party – with the power to admit or exclude others.

Manage the risk, keep it merry

Being a good host means not only ensuring your guests have a good time, but are also protected from an environment that puts them in danger of getting injured or causing injury. An effective risk minimization plan involves planning, serving reasonably and supervising. By following these tips, everyone can have a good time and be safe.

  1. Check the premises for potential hazards before the event begins;
  2. Avoid offering a self-serve bar;
  3. Ensure your guests use drink tickets;
  4. Stop serving alcohol well before the event is schedule to end;
  5. Make food available so that drinking is not the main focus of the event;
  6. Designate someone (friend or family member, employer representative) to monitor guests’ behaviour and appearance;
  7. Have arrangements for intoxicated guests to get home safely.

Hosts: if you have questions about the party you have planned or someone is injured at your party, we can help with that.

Guests: if you are injured at a party this season and are unsure of your options, we can help with that.

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