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NEWEST PARTY GAME: PIN THE LIABILITY ON THE HOST

Aug 15 2013

Summertime is a favourite time of year for having friends over to celebrate the long weekend, a birthday, or simply the fact that you haven’t needed your umbrella for a few days. What better way to beat the heat, but with a cold beer or a few icy margaritas?

Unfortunately, like summer, the party must eventually end, and your friends and family must find their way home.

You may be aware that commercial establishments, such as bars and restaurants, that serve alcohol to an intoxicated customer, may be held liable if they allow that customer to drive home and an accident occurs. What you may not be aware of is the increasing trend of victims of accidents to sue the social hosts of private events, just like the one you may hold in your backyard this summer.

In 2009, British Columbia courts were faced with a case where 200 students crashed a grad party in Richmond, turning it into a drinking party where the host’s alcohol was consumed. The impromptu party ended in tragedy when one of the severely intoxicated students decided to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, the driver of which was also severely intoxicated. The rider was thrown from the truck and suffered a significant brain injury. The reluctant hosts of the party were sued for their contribution to the injuries, for allowing the consumption of alcohol and not preventing the driver and rider from leaving the party.

Despite evidence that many courts in the U.S.A. are now holding private social hosts responsible for the injuries that occur once individuals leave a private party, in this case, the BC Judge did not hold the parents responsible. However, the door has been left open for future claims against social hosts to be successful where they are the ones who create or exacerbate the risk by permitting, inducing, encouraging or enabling individuals to become intoxicated.

This summer, if you are hosting a party there are a few things you should remember.

–          Be a responsible host and don’t drink too much (if anything).  This will allow you to be observant and make sure your guests are not getting overly intoxicated.

–           If you suspect someone is reaching their limit, be proactive and bring out food and alcohol-free drinks, or play bartender yourself so that you can limit alcohol intake.

–          For everyone’s sake, make sure your guests are not driving home drunk. Find out early on how everyone is planning on getting home, and if you see someone crawling into the driver’s seat, offer to drive them home yourself (if you haven’t been drinking), call them a cab, or offer them a place to sleep for the night.

Be a responsible host this summer, not only to avoid being held legally responsible for a victim’s injuries, but also because you want to ensure your friends and family will be around next summer to host a party on their patio.

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