Liabilities for Hosting a Social Gathering

With the holidays just around the corner, many of us are looking forward to hosting gatherings and getting together with friends and family. One thing to keep in mind when hosting a social event is social host liability. This is particularly relevant to social gatherings that involve serving alcohol, as the host may be liable for any injuries caused by their guests’ alcohol consumption.

To reduce the risk of dangerous incidents, we urge hosts to take good care of their guests. Awareness of a host’s legal responsibilities is key to ensuring that everyone stays safe and happy this holiday season.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability is an aspect of the law which states that homeowners or hosts of social gatherings can be held responsible for people under their care or people they serve alcohol to during a gathering. This means that as a host, you are responsible for making sure that your guests do not get intoxicated or inebriated to the point where they can cause harm. Many commercial host liability cases involve restaurants or bars. However, people who host house parties can also be liable. So, to keep guests safe, it is important to understand and fulfill your duties as a host during any social gathering, at any time.

When does social host liability apply?

The topic of social host liability is not black and white. However, there are key circumstances in which the law can hold you responsible for having overserved a guest. For example, party hosts have a duty to not serve or make alcohol available for minors. So, if a guest participates in underage drinking and gets into an accident, the host can be held liable. Third parties who are injured by intoxicated guests can also build a case.

Even if the guest is not underage, the host can still be found liable. If the host serves too much alcohol to someone at their home and knows that they plan to engage in impaired driving but does nothing to stop them from getting into a vehicle and causing an accident, then the host can be held responsible for overserving that guest. In this case, it would be up to the party taking action against the host to prove that the host knew the intoxicated guest posed a risk but still failed to stop them.

There are other factors that are often considered when establishing the host’s liability in these circumstances. For example, if there is a supervisory relationship between the host and guest, or if the host supplied the alcohol, then the host may be more responsible for related injuries. Additional factors may include the number of people at the gathering and whether the host invited guests to engage in risky behaviours. These circumstances determine the extent to which the host is legally responsible for injuries caused.

What happens if someone violates social host laws?

If someone violates social host laws, they can face serious consequences, including both civil and criminal charges, depending on the situation. Penalties can include fines and/or time in jail. If a third party is injured and the host is deemed liable, they may have to pay for the third party’s injuries as well as for any damages to their property. And if the host serves alcohol to a minor, they could be charged with a misdemeanour. Liability usually increases in cases where the host serves alcohol to an individual, knowing that they are intoxicated and will be driving.

Ways to Avoid Liability

Neglecting your responsibilities as a host can result in serious, life-altering injuries and tragic losses. It is important for hosts to take action to prevent impaired driving. There are several ways to do this:

  1. Host your social event at a licensed establishment. – If you choose to have your event at a licensed establishment, it can be easier to monitor guests so that they do not overdrink before going home.
  1. Serve food and non-alcoholic options during the event. – Serving food throughout the event and providing non-alcoholic beverages can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed by guests, as well as its effects on them.
  1. Offer your guests a place to stay or help them find a safe ride home. – Plan early and make sure that your guests can get home safely. Call them a cab or assign a designated driver in advance. Take their keys away if you have to. Otherwise, you could be responsible for resulting injuries.

Taking these steps to ensure that guests do not get injured on your property, and are in a fit condition when they leave, is the responsible thing to do as a host. It is important to make sure that guests are not inebriated or impaired so that they do not present a hazard to themselves or the public.

We Can Help

Determining the liability of a host when it comes to alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents can seem confusing. Here at White Macgillivray Lester, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions and address any concerns. We understand the gravity of injuries and will work hard to gather the information needed to support you. If you find yourself needing help, remember that you can contact us for a free consultation.