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November 2023


Could you be held liable for your holiday party guest?

(NC) A great party can look different to many people, depending on the crowd; and around the holiday season, many of them include libations. When hosting a party in your home, it’s important to understand the role you play – if one of your guests leaves while under the influence and injures themselves or someone else, could you be held responsible?

Legalities of liability and hosting
Hosts may be deemed responsible for impaired guests' actions once they leave a party – but of course, each instance varies.

The Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act notes that hosts are responsible for ensuring the safety of others while on their premises. Courts may hold hosts liable and may further pin liability on hosts where injuries or other issues were foreseeable due to a party.

For example, if you provide alcohol to guests at a party versus opening the doors to a bring-your-own-beverage type of shindig, the law may assess liability differently. The timeline of resulting incidents once a guest leaves and who else is involved could also change the course of the ruling.

If you’re hosting a holiday party this year, here’s how you can protect your guests and yourself.

Be a helpful host
Think about how many people you’ll be hosting, as well as a timeline for the get-together. As guests arrive, ask about how they are planning to get home. A simple, “Oh, you drove? Did you want to leave your car here overnight?” helps to start the conversation. Booking a taxi or rideshare service before the party gets underway is a great way to help your guests plan. Offering up a spare room or an air mattress for guests is another option to ensure everyone stays safe through the night.

When prepping your menu, add hearty options to leave guests feeling satiated. In addition to a stocked bar, have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks on hand – it’s a great time to make up some new mocktail recipes. As your party starts to wind down, you can swap out alcoholic beverages with coffee, tea and water, allowing your guests to reset and rehydrate.

Erring on the side of caution is essential for a safe evening for all party guests and hosts. While restaurants and bars have mandated training to limit over-serving, and the subsequent consequences, private party hosts need to rely on proactive planning and sound judgement for a positive party outcome.

Have the right home insurance coverage
Having appropriate coverage from your insurance provider could be the saving grace in a worst-case scenario. Being covered with liability as part of your home insurance policy will allow you to enjoy get-togethers in your home without worrying about what could ensue.

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