If My Guests Drive Drunk/Stoned, Am I Responsible?

October 6th, 2017 by Marc Spivak

October is here, and over the next few months, there will be a number of family gatherings and work events that may involve the consumption of alcohol/drugs. When your guest leaves your house and drives while impaired, can you be held responsible if they injure themselves or others?

Being a host, you should always be concerned about how your guests are getting home, who is the designated driver, and always be ready to offer up your couch or blow-up mattress for the night. Luckily, we have options like Uber, taxis, and even a service called Safe-T-Ride that will pick you up and drive you home (IN YOUR OWN CAR!) so that you and your vehicle arrive home safely.

Morally, as responsible and caring hosts, we should ensure the safety of our guests while in our care in or around our home. The case law is fairly clear about that but once your guest leaves your home does that duty end? The short answer is probably (but don’t take chances and keep your guest and the public safe!).

The Supreme Court of Canada in Childs v. Desormeaux  confirmed that social host liability probably does not exist in Canada. The homeowner that has a party serving alcohol may have no duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by the activities of the impaired guest after they have left the care of the host. This reasoning may also apply with parties where marijuana or other drugs are used. Regrettably we may see an increase in impaired driving with legalization of marijuana use for non-medicinal purposes.

According to Marc Spivak, lawyer and managing partner of Devry Smith Frank LLP’s personal injury group, the Supreme Court of Canada decision may leave open liability on the host if: all of the alcohol that was served was supplied by the host and consumed there and there was some sort of relationship between the host of the party and the guest whereby the host would have control over the extent of the alcohol consumption and whether the guest was intoxicated upon leaving the home.

Social host liability cases can take years to litigate with appeals to higher courts by the upset loser of the litigation. These cases cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate and reflect the loss of life or loss of enjoyment of life that nobody should have to experience.

If you are hosting a party this season, be prudent and take steps to avoid such possible accidents. Plan before your guests arrive and ensure your guests have safe transportation home. Judgment ability may change during your festivities. Make sure that won’t affect your guest’s safety and what happens after leaving your home.

“This article is intended to inform. Its content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon by readers as such. If you require legal assistance, please see a lawyer. Each case is unique and a lawyer with good training and sound judgment can provide you with advice tailored to your specific situation and needs.”

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