One For The Road

By Pace Law | September 4, 2012

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert Conforzi – If you’re like me, you may have had children returning to college or university this past long weekend.

After the annual drop-off is done, and the parental units are safely on their way back home, it’s anyone’s guess what their kids get up to during that first week back at school – you know, the week when class is not in session and there is nothing left to do but hang out and look for fun. The freshmen will take part in Frosh Week festivities, while returning students will head to the campus bars. This search for a good time can sometimes lead to trouble.

You may be happy to know that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario are coordinating a blitz of inspections at licensed establishments in and around Ontario universities. They want to ensure that bars and pubs are adhering to their license obligations and Smart Serve standards.

Universities typically will have several licensed establishments on campus. They have become very proactive in trying to educate students about responsible drinking and the students’ obligation to be good neighbours in their community. The last thing that universities want to see is over-consumption on university property which leads to an off-campus incident or accident. No doubt the schools care about their students’ welfare, but they also do not want to be found partially at fault if an incident or accident occurs.
But what about a house party? Let’s say a BYOB affair is in the works, where a student and their roommates decide to send a Facebook message out to 200 of their closest friends. They invite the friends over and allow them to freely drink alcohol in the house. Now let’s suppose that one of the attendees gets intoxicated (even if they don’t look it), and then foolishly gets behind the wheel and injures an innocent person in a car wreck. Is the host of the party at least partially to blame?

This very situation was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Childs v. Desormeaux decision. The Court held that this type of social host does not have a duty of care to innocent third party motorists who are injured by an intoxicated guest.

The liability of a social host is much different from a commercial establishment. In a commercial setting, a bar is profiting from selling alcohol. There is no doubt that a duty of care arises to an innocent member of the public if a bar over-serves a patron who then gets behind the wheel of a car and causes an accident that injures somebody. In the private party scenario, however, Childs v. Desormeux has shown the opposite to be true – at least so far.

The law of negligence is ever changing as society evolves. Decisions made in our Courts years ago may not reflect our changing times. If you’ve been injured by someone in an alcohol-related incident, no matter where or how it occurred, you should talk to a lawyer about your rights.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. His posts generally appear on Mondays.