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What is social host liability?

Most people are aware that "commercial hosts," such as bars and restaurants, can potentially be held liable if the employees continue to serve a customer alcohol, despite the fact that he or she is clearly intoxicated or if they allow a customer to leave in an intoxicated state and then that person harms someone and/or themselves. However, individuals, or "social hosts" can also be held liable if a guest leaves their home or an event intoxicated and gets into an accident or otherwise causes harm or is harmed because of his or her condition.

It's generally easier to hold a commercial host liable for an injury or death related to alcohol than a social host. However, it's not impossible to hold a social host liable.

A social host is defined as anyone not supplying or selling liquor for profit and not an employer. However, a social host is someone who has control over a premises where alcohol is being served or consumed. The host does not necessarily have to be the one providing the alcohol if he or she allows its consumption on the premises.

It can be difficult to prove, however, that a social host was aware of how much alcohol was being consumed by guests or just what state various guests were in when they left. Social hosts do have a "duty of care" to their guests and should take steps to control and supervise how much alcohol is served and consumed at a gathering. In some cases, this may mean taking their keys or even calling the police if they feel that it's necessary to prevent a potential tragedy.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed as the result of an intoxicated person, the people or establishment who served that person alcohol may bear some liability. It's worthwhile to consult a personal injury lawyer to determine what individuals and/or entities you may be able to take legal action against to recover damages.

Source: Canada Safety Council, "Social Host Liability," accessed Jan. 06, 2016

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