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Host Liability When Alcohol is Consumed

Is The Host Of A Party Liable For Guests Who Drink Excessively?

The current law has been re-summarized in the decision of Williams v. Richard, a 2018 Decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal. It reconfirmed that the law in Canada is that individuals who host social occasions where they provide or allow alcohol to be consumed will not be found liable if an intoxicated guest gets behind the wheel and injures themselves or other people. The issue is originally resolved in the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in the Julia Childs case  [Childs v. Desormeaux, 2006 S.C.C. 18].

It is important to note that just because the Julia Childs case found that there was no liability for on the social host this does not mean that there cannot be. In the Childs case, the Supreme Court of Canada left open wording that indicated that in extreme circumstances there might be a possibility that social host liability could occur.

Generally speaking there is no social host liability although there might be some potential for liability in extreme cases where social hosts blatantly disregard their guests.

In the Williams v. Richard case the parties were friends and regularly got together after work for beer.  Williams consumed 15 cans of beer over three hours while visiting at Mr. Richard’s mother’s home. Williams loaded his children in the car and drove their babysitter home. On the way back to his residence he ran into the rear end of a parked car.  He was killed and his children were severely injured.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the claim against the friend who hosted the beerfest finding that the requisite duty of care was not established. In addition they held that such duty of care would have ended once Mr. Williams arrived at home.