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My name is Chris Clifford, I’m a partner with the law firm of Bergeron Clifford. We’re a personal injury law firm that’s all that we do and I’m answering a question that was raised about the potential liability of a host at the conclusion of their party if somebody’s injured so to answer that question I should tell you first that that area of the law is what we refer to as social host liability and there is a potential in certain circumstances for the host to be found responsible for injuries sustained by their guests following a party. iIn Canada that area of the law it’s narrow. It doesn’t happen very often but in a certain scenario it could very well happen.
Before I answer the question tell you a little bit about the law. I should tell you that the the purpose of these claims um is really to explore whether or not there’s an insurance policy that will respond and usually the injuries are catastrophic in nature. You’re dealing with a fatality claim and the impact of those injuries or that loss is serious and significant and a lawyer will bring that claim against the host in order to explore whether or not there’s for example a homeowner’s insurance policy that might provide coverage for the losses. The law around that area is narrow.
What it focuses on though is whether or not that host has a duty of care to their guests and some of the things that they’ll look at is that the court will look at is foreseeability so was the incident that happened foreseeable under the circumstances. They’ll also consider proximity or whether or not the host had a duty to intervene and each case has its own facts. There’s a difference between hosting a dinner party for you know a small group of adults where some wine is consumed and at the other extreme end. Maybe it’s a a large teenage party that parents are hosting. There can be a wide range of circumstances and the court will look at the nature of the party. Whether or not alcohol was provided and if so how much. If drugs were involved or risky behavior was involved.
If you’re hosting a party in a rural setting where there’s unlimited amounts of alcohol to underage drinkers and you’re not monitoring them properly maybe there’s drugs involved, or if there are ATVs snowmobiles around, you know that’s a circumstance where bad things happening is foreseeable. If you’re in a paternalistic relationship with respect to the crowd, you may have a duty to to act and bring that party to a close so that injuries and the consequences of those injuries don’t happen.
But I think the important thing to take away from all of it though is simply hosting a party where alcohol is available is unlikely to attract social host liability. The case is turned to the facts and in the circumstances the results of the the judgment are usually understandable.
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