Over-service can have consequences.
Commercial & Social Host Liability
duty of care.
Owners and Supervisors at bars and restaurants; business owners and managers hosting office parties; and even citizens throwing a party in their homes have a duty not to over-serve their guests. This responsibility requires that the intoxicated guest does not come to harm, or harm members of the public at large. If the host does not take steps to prevent over-service and injury, they may be liable.
Commercial Host Liability
Businesses that serve alcohol owe a duty of reasonable care to the customers buying and consuming alcohol who are at risk of becoming intoxicated at their establishment, as well as to members of our community who might be put at risk by impaired customers, either within or after leaving the premises.
If a patron becomes impaired, then the business that over-served that patron may be held responsible for an injury that occurs as a result of their intoxication. The business may also be liable if the intoxicated patron injures someone else; for example, if they are permitted to drive home and, while doing so, strike another vehicle or pedestrian due to their intoxicated state.
Generally, the standard of care requires a host to monitor a patron’s consumption of alcohol and NOT serve the patron to the point of intoxication. If a patron appears to be impaired, steps must be taken to prevent that patron from driving. Part of a host’s duty of care is to ensure an intoxicated patron gets home safely. This is also true if you are hosting a party at your home or place of business.
Social Host Liability
If you are serving alcohol in your home at a dinner party or social event and someone becomes impaired and harms themselves and/or someone else, you may be liable for their actions. Hosts have an obligation to ensure that their guests, as well as others with whom their guests may come into contact, do not come to harm. If a guest suffers injury due to their intoxication, it can be argued that that the host’s breach of duty caused the resulting injuries, and the host could be liable for damages.
It is important to note that social hosts are not held to the same standard as commercial hosts with respect to injury caused to other people. There are three significant differences:
- Commercial hosts are being paid for their service. This allows them to easily monitor their patrons consumption and their staff are expected to possess special knowledge to spot intoxication;
- The sale of alcohol is strictly regulated, and commercial establishments must adhere to the rules and regulations; and
- There is a contractual relationship between the commercial host and its guest. Commercial hosts benefit financially from over-service; thus, the Courts have found that this “perverse incentive” supports the imposition of a duty to monitor consumption.
The Courts have identified specific factors which may give rise to a more onerous duty on the part of social hosts with respect to members of the public. As a general rule, social hosts are not expected to monitor the conduct of their guests on behalf of the public and do not owe a duty of care to individuals who may come to harm due to the actions of an impaired guest.
The Courts will examine many factors in determining whether a business or a social host over-served a customer. As a business owner, you should be aware of the risks and make sure you speak with your Insurance company. As a homeowner, you do have an obligation to look out for the safety of your guests, and to ensure that if alcohol is consumed, people have a safe ride home.
If you are injured as a result of over-service in a commercial or social setting, or injured by someone impaired due to over-service, seek immediate medical care and legal advice as quickly as possible so that all evidence can be preserved. Remember that many bars and restaurant now have video surveillance, which might be used to prove over-service of alcohol. The staff and other customers can also be important witnesses. Act fast and call Helpforme for your free consultation.
We deal with insurance companies, cut through red tape, secure income replacement and disability benefits, and arrange for the medical care and therapy you need to heal. We take the burden off of you. That way, you can focus on your recovery, while we ensure the best possible outcome for your future.