What are your rights as a party host when something bad happens?
If you are hosting a party at your house and a guest drives home drunk, are you responsible if they suffer or cause a serious injury?
The concept is known as host liability and refers to the level of legal exposure that you can have when you entertain a group of people, usually at your home.
Jeremy Diamond, managing lawyer with Diamond & Diamond Personal Injury Lawyers, recommends that if you have any concerns about the liability surrounding a party you are hosting, that you should speak to a reputable personal injury lawyer.
“The leading Canadian case on social host liability is Childs v. Desormeaux, which was based on an event that happened on New Year’s Eve, 1998,” said Diamond. “Ultimately the Supreme Court decided that a social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who might be injured through the actions of a guest.”
Two factors from that case that affected the court’s decision was the fact that the hosts didn’t actually serve any alcohol at the party and they did not know that their guest was drunk when he left their house. Every situation is different so previous legal precedents are not always the best indicator of liability.
There are other instances beyond serving alcohol to guests, where hosts need to worry about potential legal issues.
“It is important that you take steps to mitigate against risk to those who visit your home,” explained Jeremy Diamond. “For example, in the winter months you have a duty to make sure your walkway is clear of ice or snow that may cause a hazard for those that come on your property, such as a delivery person. In the summer, injuries resulting from failing to maintain a pool in good condition or protecting it with a fence for children could cause you to be liable.”
If you are a tenant you may still be liable if something happens to a guest.
“This is very specific to the incident that occurred,” said Diamond. “If a landlord was negligent in maintaining a property and it was that negligence that caused the injury then they could be held liable. If a tenant is injured due to the failure discussed above then they could file a suit against the landlord.”
If someone does file a suit against you and you are found liable, there’s a good chance that the penalty would be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
“Your home insurance should include something that protects you in the event of personal injury. Most policies will include $1 million or higher,” noted Diamond.
If a guest does make a claim against you, the range of financial penalties you could incur depends on the circumstances.
“This is very dependent on the claim and what the loss was,” explained Diamond. “Pain and suffering is capped by the Supreme Court of Canada and a little over $360,000. Under Tort law, you could also sue for income lost and medical expenses you incurred.”
Summertime is a time for weddings and other family celebrations. Even if these events are hosted in a neutral place, such as a reception hall, you may still have legal obligations to your guests.
“A concept called vicarious liability kicks in here,” said Diamond. “You could be held liable for an injury that you did not cause. You may have a secondary relationship to the party who acted negligently. This could be, for example, a company that hosted a Christmas party at an event hall and did not take the proper steps to educate their staff on safety or mitigate against risk. Many companies will provide taxi chits at these sorts of functions to prevent liability around employees driving drunk.”
As a guest you also have rights. If you are ever injured at a party or when visiting a person’s home, you may be able to make a claim against them for a reward for your pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses.
With more than 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of injured plaintiffs, Diamond and Diamond is one of Ontario’s most well known Personal Injury firms. Jeremy Diamond serves as one of the firm’s managing lawyers.
They have won the Consumer Choice Award for Personal Injury Firm in Ontario for the past three years straight as well as eight Reader’s Choice Awards and a Top Choice Award. Diamond and Diamond has 14 offices serving all of Ontario.
For more information, visit http://diamondlaw.ca/