In British Columbia, a couple from Salt Spring Island are being sued by a young man who suffered catastrophic injuries in a single-vehicle accident after leaving their premises in 2012. The case, which has now entered the provincial Supreme Court, is the latest test of ‘social host liability’ in Canada, and personal injury lawyers are watching it closely.
What is a Social Host?
A social host is a person who invites guests into their residence or onto their property. Social host liability cases tend to revolve around alcohol: when alcohol is served, how much responsibility does the host have for their guests’ actions after they have left the premises?
Social hosts’ responsibilities are different from those of bartenders, waiters, and licensed establishments, which owe their patrons a clear and established duty of care.
The British Columbia Case
The case in British Columbia involves alcohol and is complicated by several factors. First, the plaintiff, Calder McCormick, was underage at the time of the accident. Second, the car in which he was injured was driven by a friend, Ryan Plambeck, who perished in the accident. Third, the car was stolen from an adjacent lot, not from the defendants’ property.
McCormick was on the property of the defendants, Stephen and Lidia Pearson, for a party hosted by the Pearsons’ children. His lawsuit alleges that the defendants should have done more to supervise the party and ensure guests made it home safely. In order for the claim to be successful, McCormick’s personal injury lawyers must prove that the Pearsons owed their client a duty of care.
Existing Case Law
The court’s decision will likely be informed by two landmark social host liability cases: Childs v Desormeaux, a Supreme Court case decided in May 2006, and Wardak v Froom, an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision from 2017.
In Childs v Desormeaux, the defendant became intoxicated at a BYOB (bring your own booze/beer) New Year’s celebration. He left the celebration, attempted to drive home, and caused a two-vehicle collision resulting in catastrophic injuries. The hosts of the party were found not to be liable.
In Wardak v Froom, an underage guest attended a birthday party at a neighbour’s house. He became intoxicated, left the party, got in his car, and suffered catastrophic injuries in a single vehicle accident. The defendants in this case were deemed to be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, due to the paternalistic relationship between the host and the guest.
Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to Learn More
The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s decision in the McCormick case will add to existing case law on the subject of social host liability in Canada. If you or a member of your family have been injured in an impaired driving accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how our experienced team can help.
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