Friday, May 05, 2006

Supreme Court of Canada Has Balls and Guts

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a ruling released this month, held that the host of a party who serves drinks to his or her guests is not legally responsible to third party users of the highways for the actions of his or her guests once they leave the party. In other words: If you have people over to your house and you serve alcohol, you are not legally responsible for their actions once they leave your house.

The facts of the case are as follows. D goes to a New Year's Eve Party held by some friends. There are between 15 and 20 adults at the party. D brings 12 beer and consumes them all. The host serves a single bottle of Champagne at midnight. The host had provided sleeping bags to guests wishing to spend the night. The hosts were aware of D's propensity to drink too much and as he attempts to leave, one of the hosts, C, asked him "Are you okay, brother?". D answered yes, got in his car and drove away. A little ways down the road, D struck a car, killing the driver, seriously injuring three others, including the plaintiff whose spinal cord was severed, leaving her a paraplegic.

Z, the plaintiff, sued the owners of the house, claiming that they had a positive duty to monitor D's alcohol consumption and to prevent him from leaving their house while intoxicated because they should have known, based on what is known about drinking and driving, that an injury was likely and foreseeable. This duty, Z argued, arose simply from the fact the the defendants had hosted a party at which alcohol was served.

The Court held however, that simply hosting a party where alcohol is served and consumed does not create a relationship between the host and some other person driving down the highway. Personal liberty, the court indicated, is not lost simply by the fact that you enter a house where you might be served alcohol. Here is the link to the actual decision. Don't listen to me and DON'T listen to the media or popular opinion. Read the decision yourself, it is fair and logical.

http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/csc-scc/en/rec/html/2006scc018.wpd.html

7 comments:

not a lawyer... yet said...

Balls, guts, and doing the right thing. Excellent decision.

Shuter said...

hmmm..... do you really think that if I let someone leave my house when they are trashed, and they kill someone, that I have NO responsibility for that? I imagine your response will distinguish between moral and legal responsibility, but can (or should)the two really be separated? I can see some arguments for the social hosts in this case - they didn't acually provide any alcohol to him (he brought his own), and the court also said he didn't appear to be visibly intoxicated (which is bull based on what the trial judge found). But.... do you think that a social host should NEVER be responsible in this situation? The suggested legal obligation would be to simply suggest he not drive, take his keys, or just call him a cab - just ANY attempt to stop him from driving. Do you think this is too great a burden to place on people in order to prevent deaths??? Seems like common sense to me. haha I'm sure you want to punch me now James.

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