Party and Social Host Liability BC

Party season is upon us in BC and residents all over the province are in the midst of planning festivities at their home. While playing host is a point of pride it’s not all accolades and praise from guests as with every affair comes significant risk. We recently addressed social host liability in our article about how to stay claims-free on Halloween, but with the holiday season fast approaching it’s time to expand on the concept. Let’s review.

5 Tips to Reducing the Risk of Liability When Hosting a Party this Holiday Season

Be a Smart host

Licensed establishments in British Columbia are well educated in commercial host liability. Bars, pubs, and eateries understand that they owe a duty of care to ensure that they do not contribute to the over-intoxication of patrons, the latter of which can result in harm to themselves and others, in and outside of the venue. Do homeowners who host a party and serve alcohol owe a duty of care to guests in addition to third-parties who may be harmed by inebriated guests either on-premises or on the road after the party? A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the case of Childs v. Desomoreaux set a precedent that “as a general rule” a social host does not owe a duty of care to third parties injured by intoxicated guests.

So are you in the clear? Not necessarily.

You see, as a host you are providing a place (your home) where people congregate, mingle, and consume alcohol. On its own, the Supreme Court of Canada dictates that it all falls within accepted parameters of non-dangerous conduct. For an injured guest or third party to file a claim against the host, more is required to establish a danger or risk that requires responsible action on the part of the host. For example, in a situation where guests bring their own alcohol (BYOB, etc.) it may be that you cannot reasonably be expected to monitor their consumption.  However, if you are serving alcohol, a case could be made that as the server you are indeed aware of how much alcohol a given guest has consumed and that you have accepted some form of responsibility. This sort of “grey area” is what hosts need to pay attention to.

Instead of risking it, err on the side of caution. If you plan on providing alcohol to guests, consider hiring a Smart Serve-qualified server instead of going at it on your own. They are experienced in monitoring an individual’s alcohol consumption and can let you know when someone needs to be cut-off. It’s a small investment that pays dividends in the form of liability risk reduction. In addition, establish car key collection protocol at the front door and don’t let any driver leave without passing inspection. You can take it a step further by purchasing a personal breathalyzer to conduct the test, which may seem extreme but it removes subjectivity from the equation and in the end shows guests that you truly care for their safety.

Keep Your Own Alcohol Consumption to a Minimum

The precautions above will only be successful if you, as the host, are of sound mind and body. In other words, don’t get hammered. Intoxicated hosts are far less likely to recognize when their own guests have exceeded their limits and pose a threat to themselves, others, the house, and neighboring properties. Keep your own alcohol consumption to a minimum throughout the affair and wait until the last guest leaves before you uncork the bottle of wine they brought for you.

Have Your Home Inspected (and Repaired) Prior to the Party

The condition of your home interior and exterior plays a significant role in protecting yourself from social host liability. Look no further than a recent case against an estate in the Township of Langley, BC. At press, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the owners of property, where a deck collapsed during a celebration that resulted in numerous injuries. Among the claims, is one that dictates that the property owners failed to ensure the deck was safe, regularly maintained and adequately inspected. This case is no isolated incident mind you. All over the country there are reports of faulty decks, patios, flooring, roofing, and staircases that are stressed in the presence of an excessive number of people at a house party. If you have one on the holiday season horizon, have your property inspected for damage and disrepair that may become further aggravated by guests in attendance. Leave enough time for repairs (as needed) so that guests step into a safe environment.

Create a Safe Indoor and Outdoor Setting for Guests

Even if your house is in tiptop shape there are other things on the property that may harm guests at your holiday season affair. A child’s toy left on the stairs can send someone tumbling down faster than Clark Griswold on a ladder so clear away all clutter. The same duty of care applies to dog owners as your precious pup may not appreciate the presence of strangers and take a bite out of outstretched hands. Keep pets tucked away in the basement or secured room until the guests have left. And unless you’re Kevin McCallister and need to keep burglars at bay while home alone make sure the walkways around your property are free of ice and snow. Simply put, keep concussions and bruised shins from ruining your shindig by clearing the property before guests arrive.

Update Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

If you saw this tip coming a mile away, good. It means that you understand the importance of protecting yourself with the most comprehensive homeowners insurance coverage possible. While every homeowner should have their policy reviewed by an independent broker, those serving as hosts for the holidays should definitely put it on their to-do list. Contact Park Insurance today to schedule your consultation before you send out those e-invites.