An odd bit of public welfare notification giving from the PEI Liquor Commission, an organization I recall as lacking a strong leadership role in public awareness on the risks associated with the product:
The 24-page guide, released in time for the holidays, gives tips on planning a party, recipes and bar-stocking ideas. It also includes sobering information on a person's liability as a host, and dispels myths about alcohol consumption. The guide notes a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision that social hosts don't have the same burden of responsibility that bars and restaurants do in ensuring guests do not leave intoxicated.That ruling from last May could and likely does have a more limited application than many have hope and here is why:
"A social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest's actions, unless the host's conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk," the top court ruled. "Short of active implication, a host is entitled to respect the autonomy of a guest. However, the PEI Liquor Control Commission's booklet says, the Supreme Court ruling does not provide a carte blanche."
- At para 26 the court says:
I conclude that the necessary proximity has not been established and, consequently, that social hosts of parties where alcohol is served do not owe a duty of care to public users of highways. First, the injury to Ms. Childs was not reasonably foreseeable on the facts found by the trial judge. Second, even if foreseeability were established, no duty would arise because the wrong alleged is a failure to act or nonfeasance in circumstances where there was no positive duty to act.So where the wrong is an omission, a not doing of something, there is no duty.
- Key facts by the trial judge found include the following at para 4:
The party hosted by Dwight Courrier and Julie Zimmerman at their home was a “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Booze) event. The only alcohol served by the hosts was three-quarters of a bottle of champagne in small glasses at midnight. Mr. Desormeaux was known to his hosts to be a heavy drinker. The trial judge heard evidence that when Mr. Desormeaux walked to his car to leave, Mr. Courrier accompanied him and asked, “Are you okay, brother?” Mr. Desormeaux responded “No problem”, got behind the wheel and drove away with two passengers.So the hosts were not piling on the drinks, they were not serving the drinks, they were not "operating the bar". They were not "acting."
To be very fair, I have not read the booklet and the news item says they have confirmed it is not a free for all. But be as careful as before. Take prudent advice. Don't consider anything has changed when you are pouring the drinks. You may well still be as responsible as before in another set of circumstances. Do you want five to ten years in a court case that goes to the Supremes to find out?