Serving Alcohol At Your Party? Consider This

Our very own Nicolle Snow was interviewed by CTV Atlantic host Heidi Pertacek regarding the legal implications of being a party host when guests over indulge on alcohol. This article is the audio transcription of the interview that you can watch here.

CTV Host Heidi Petracek:

If you are planning to host a cocktail soiree you’re more likely focused on which cheeses to serve, than on the implications of your guests over indulging on alcohol. Good judgment sometimes slips when the cocktails start flowing, so what are your legal responsibilities as a party host?

Lawyer Nicolle Snow of MacGillivray Injury and Insurance Law joins us this morning to talk about this topic; good morning thanks so much for coming in.

Nicolle Snow:

Thank you for having me.

Heidi Petracek:

And it is something that we do have to keep in mind. This came up with the Supreme Court in 2006 as a big issue, but it's something that people still need to think about during party season. So, what should someone who hosts a party think about when it comes to legal liability?

Nicolle Snow:

Well, you want to think about, first of all, the age of your party goers. You want to make sure that they’re the age of majority.

You also want to make sure you not over serving alcohol. So, if a guest shows signs of intoxication then you want to stop serving them alcohol.

Heidi Petracek:

So, what is the responsibility of a party host then if your guests do come over and drink, and then end up leaving and getting in an accident?

Nicolle Snow:

There can be liability that will follow if you have a guest who over indulges and leaves your home. There are certain circumstances that should be present, so it is a bit of a grey area - not in every case is a social host going to be responsible for their guests when they leave but, for instance, if you are over serving and you do know that your guest is intoxicated, and you do know that your guest is leaving

the house, getting into a car and driving, then its foreseeable that your guest could enter into an accident. If you have a foreseeable risk that's basically when liability could arise.

Heidi Petracek:

Yes, because it’s that foreseeability that's kind of a litmus test that the court then uses in some cases, right? As to whether or not you could predict that that kind of thing could happen.

Nicolle Snow:

Absolutely.

Heidi Petracek:

So, what could the penalties be for something like that, if you're the party host?

Nicolle Snow:

Well, it's a civil liability situation and so it's really

measured in terms of quantifiable money. That depends on the nature of the injury and the cost of care that may arise from the injury. There's no set dollar value, but, whenever you're dealing with civil liability than you're really looking at a dollar value that will be attached to the injuries.

Heidi Petracek:

Would it depend on whether it's a partygoer who is injured or if they injure someone else?

Nicolle Snow:

Absolutely. It could be that the party goer gets into an accident and injures another individual - then that injured individual can sue the social host.

Heidi Petracek:

Right the social host, that’s the term for it. So, what are some things that people should do when they do host a party? You mentioned don't over serve, but what about transportation for your guests? What should a party host do there?

Nicolle Snow:

Well, you may want to ensure that people have taxes, and are going to take a taxi. You may want to have a designated driver at your party who can drive individuals home. Just make sure that, if your guest has had a lot to drink and it doesn't look like they're able to drive, that you find some alternate means for them to get home.

Heidi Petracek:

Because it can lie with you and be your responsibility.

Nicolle Snow:

It can.

Heidi Petracek:

If something like this happens over the holiday season to anyone, what should they do?

Nicolle Snow:

They should aim to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Heidi Petracek:

Of course we hope that nothing like that ever happens and the idea of prevention is where this comes in - think before you {host a party}.

Nicolle Snow:

Yep, you want your guests to be happy and safe and to leave your party and get home happy and safe as well!

Heidi Petracek:

And, if something does come up, consulting a lawyer is always a good idea. Thank you so much for coming in with this reminder for people who are hosting parties over the holidays.

Nicole Snow:

Thank you Heidi.

To watch the video interview follow the link provided below to view it on our Youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9xy0WNyGu0