While Childs v. Desormeaux, 2006 SCC 18 closed the door on a specific fact pattern of social host liability, there are a myriad of other scenarios which could attract legal liability to a party host. When you invite guests into your home this season, let them leave with happy memories and without a reason to name you in a Statement of Claim.
Aside from any legal responsibility, one can argue that there is most certainly a moral or ethical obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure your guests remain safe in your home and after they leave.
With the above in mind, we suggest the following tips and tricks to help you plan and host a happy and safe holiday gathering:
Preparing your home:
- Clear your driveway and walkway of snow and ice.
- Ensure your driveway and home are well lit.
- Ensure cords from Christmas lights are tucked away and don't present a tripping hazard.
- Decorations on railings can be lovely but make sure that the railing is still safe and useful despite the décor.
Being a smart host:
- Keep aggressive or anxious pets away from guests to avoid a potential biting situation.
- Keep a steady supply of food and non-alcoholic beverages* for guests. (*The LCBO has a fabulous set of mocktail recipes you can try.)
- As a host it is important to stay sober yourself in order to keep control of any situation that might arise.
- Don't allow drinking guests to access pools or hot tubs.
- Encourage guests to arrive by taxi or public transit.
Getting everyone home safe:
- Provide phone numbers and fare for a cab ride home.
- Keep the party to invited guests only - open invitations on the Internet are generally a very bad idea.
- Impose your own 'last call' for alcoholic beverages a little while before the party ends.
- Take the initiative and call a cab for a guest who may be reluctant to do so themselves.
- Make use of a service like OTLA-sponsored Operation Red Nose.
- Leave an open invitation (and some couch space) for guests who may need to stay the night.
We Would like to wish you all the very best this holiday season and into 2014.
*Originally published at www.otlablog.com, re-published by permission from Ontario Trial Lawyers Association