Opening your home to friends and family for a gathering or celebration is a time to connect and catch up. However, in Alberta, social hosts – those who provide alcohol at private functions –  carry a legal responsibility for the safety of their guests. This responsibility extends beyond ensuring a good time and can encompass liability for alcohol-related accidents or incidents.  

This blog will explore the concept and legal landscape of social host liability in Alberta. It will offer practical advice on risk mitigation for social hosts and explore the consequences of a social host liability claim. This blog will help hosts and guests understand their roles and responsibly navigate summer social gatherings.

Understanding the Scope of Social Host Liability

Social hosts are occupiers who are non-employers and non-commercial hosts. Social host liability is a legal principle that holds individuals or occupiers who serve their guests alcohol (social hosts) responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their guests’ intoxication. For example, if a guest who consumed alcohol at your gathering gets behind the wheel and is involved in an accident that results in injury to themselves or others, you, as the social host, could be found liable. 

Responsibilities Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act

As a social host, you have certain responsibilities towards your guests. However, you may not have a “positive duty to act” or a strict legal obligation to prevent an intoxicated guest from drinking and driving. However, if you are hosting an event and are an “occupier” as defined under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, you do owe a duty to your guests to take reasonable care to ensure they are safe while on your premises. You may be held liable if a guest sustains a serious injury on your premises. 

Whether you are hosting a backyard barbeque or a bonfire at the cabin, it is important to understand your role and responsibility as a social host. Although social host liability law is not explicitly defined in Alberta legislation, the common law principle of negligence applies. The concept of foreseeability is also applied in social host liability, as, in the event of an accident, a court will consider whether the social host could have reasonably foreseen the potential for an accident to occur based on the guest’s level of intoxication and behaviour. 

Social hosts owe their guests a duty of care and must take reasonable steps to ensure their guests are safe. As such, as a host, it is important to:

  • Monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption, as being aware of intoxication levels can help you identify potential risks;
  • Serve food to slow down your guests’ alcohol consumption and reduce the risk of severe intoxication;
  • Provide non-alcohol beverage options for your guests to ensure a variety of drink options and ensure that guests do not feel pressured to drink alcohol and 
  • Have a plan for intoxicated guests, such as arranging a designated driver or alternative transportation option for individuals who have consumed too much alcohol.

Social host liability may not be established if the guest’s unforeseeable actions and reasonable precautions are taken to mitigate risk if an accident occurs.

Mitigating Risk as a Social Host

By implementing responsible hosting practices, you can reduce the risk of social host liability issues. Some examples of responsible hosting practices include:

  • Communicate expectations to guests: As a host, you can set clear expectations regarding alcohol consumption at your gathering, including encouraging responsible alcohol consumption, offering non-alcohol beverage options, and identifying a cut-off time for serving alcohol.
  • Maintaining a safe environment: Ensure that your property is clear from tripping or slipping hazards or other potential dangers that could pose a safety risk to your guests. 
  • Monitor intoxication levels: By being aware of your guests’ alcohol consumption, you can identify if someone appears overly intoxicated and can cut them off from further alcohol consumption and help them plan alternative arrangements to get home. 

Responsible Hosting This Summer

Social host liability should not shadow your next summer gathering. Adopting responsible social host practices and maintaining open communication with your guests is key to mitigating risks associated with social host liability. You can create lasting memories without worrying about legal consequences by prioritizing guest safety and creating a responsible drinking environment. 

What To Do If You Have Been Injured at a Gathering

If you have been injured in an incident at a summer gathering or believe a host has been negligent in serving alcohol at their premises and you have sustained an injury as a result, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer who can assess your circumstances and help you navigate the claims process. 

Contact the Calgary Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Advice on Social Host Liability Claims

Summer accidents can happen fast. Whether you are attending a birthday party or hosting a summer celebration, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities in the event of an accident. If you have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property or due to another person’s negligence, you may have a claim for compensation. At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers will review the circumstances of your case and provide you with an assessment of your potential claim. To speak with a member of our team, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 to learn how we can assist you.