Social Hosts Held Increasingly Liable for Letting Guests Drive Drunk After Party

Can I be held responsible for letting my friend drive drunk?” What is the responsibility of a social host when it comes to managing their guests’ inebriation? For over 10 years one decision of the Supreme Court of Canada has largely kept social hosts free from liability for their guests’ post-party misdemeanours. But courts, particularly in Ontario, have been finding creative ways to skirt around that decision and impose a duty of care on hosts.

Social host liability basics

Put simply, social host liability or ‘liquor liability’ means that a homeowner may potentially have to bear liability for the bodily harm or property damage caused by a guest in his or her drunken state after leaving their property.

The law is defined, for the most part, by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Childs v. Desormeaux. In that case, a guest left a party in a severely inebriated state. He bade goodbye to his hosts, who showed concern over his condition, but nevertheless let him drive off. Driving with a blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit, he veered his vehicle into oncoming traffic, the collision killing one person, injuring six others and paralyzing a teenager.

The decision in Childs

In addition to the expected legal recourse against the driver, the victims pursued a claim against the hosts of the party. Their appeal was heard by the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice McLachlin delivering the following opinion, in 2006:

‘hosting a party at which alcohol is served does not, without more, establish the degree of proximity required to give rise to a duty of care on the hosts to third-party highway users…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.’

It meant social hosts were not responsible for monitoring their guests’ alcohol intake; and barring some exceptions, social hosts did not owe a duty of care to third parties, for instance, other road users. Though this exclusion beyond just road users.

Liability assessed on a case by case basis

So, can you be held responsible for letting your friend drive drunk? In a word, maybe. Courts in Ontario have been more amenable to finding social hosts liability, within the bounds of the exceptions under the Childs decision. One such is Wardak v. Froom, where Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice found that parents who had permitted a party in their house and – despite it being a bring your own bottle (BYOB) event – had a duty of care towards their guests.

Essentially, liability is assessed on a case by case basis. Courts scrutinize the facts of the case closely to determine whether the host owed a duty of care, and whether their discharge of responsibility met the standard of care expected.

This includes looking at the number of guests who were there; how old they were; whether anything during the party should have forewarned the hosts; whether there were any intervening circumstances between the guest departing and the accident occurring.

Oakville Personal Injury Lawyers

In essence, every case is different and a discussion with experienced lawyers is required to get an understanding if you or your loved one might be placed legally. At Will Davidson LLP, our team of lawyers is able to advise you effectively on liability or how best to navigate your claim for personal injury or property damage. Get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation.

Why SUVs are Becoming the Focal Point of Pedestrian Safety

Ontario has seen a significant rise in car accidents resulting in a personal injury or death – particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Transport road safety report lists 50,032 passenger car collisions causing fatalities and personal injuries in the province. In a missed opportunity, the report does not distinguish between cars and trucks; but, if it did, SUVs and pick-up trucks would likely be the worst offenders.

“Everyone is responsible for avoiding collisions”, says the MTO’s Drivers handbook. It means drivers of large vehicles have a greater responsibility to be able to drive their vehicle safely. By reason of their sheer size and weight, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks are significantly more difficult to manoeuvre than lighter vehicles.

Whether a pedestrian, a (motor) cyclist or even someone in a smaller or lower car, the injuries sustained in a collision with large vehicles are significantly worse. It means a driver behind the wheel of an SUV or pick-up truck has a greater duty of care: that they must be cognizant of the dimensions and performance of their vehicle.

Studies continue to show that car accidents involving a larger vehicle have a higher chance of resulting in serious or fatal injuries. For every additional 450 kilograms on the weight of a car, it becomes 40 per cent more likely to turn an otherwise survivable crash into a fatal collision.

And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes in a recent report an 81 percent spike in pedestrian deaths caused by an SUV between 2009 and 2016.

The additional mass of an SUV is not the sole reason for the increased severity of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists and even occupants of other cars, it is their frontal geometry too. The much higher hood and radiator structures mean that greater risk of injury to the thoracic and abdominal core of the body.

It is worse for occupants in standard height cars too. The high crash structure of SUVs and their tendency to ‘ride over’ means drivers of smaller vehicles are four times more likely to die in the collision, found a study by the University of Buffalo.

For many city dwellers who get around by bicycle, on foot or simply driving a smaller car, this evidence poses a serious threat. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, reach out to a car accident lawyer at Will Davidson LLP. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers has tremendous experience investigating car accidents, particularly those which involve large vehicles. We will assess your accident, give you advice about compensation and help you determine how best to take your claim forward.

Driving Safe in Winter Means Knowing When to Change Your Tires

The Globe and Mail reports, ‘the rubber in all-season tires starts to harden when the temperature drops below 7C.’ Tires are that important liaison between the vehicle and the road. After all, tires bring into the real world the claimed performance characteristics of the vehicle. That said, tires have a much narrower performance window as compared to other components of the car.

Given the severe winter weather that Ontario experiences for a significant part of the year, it is curious that drivers are not clearly aware of when to put on winter tires. Only British Columbia and Quebec have taken active measures that require drivers to install winter tires.

When to put on winter tires

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation, a Canadian road safety research institute, notes an almost 50% increase in accidents due to skidding in winter conditions. In fact, contrary to their colloquial name – snow tires – winter tires should be installed on a vehicle two weeks before the first snow and kept on until about two weeks after the last snow of the season. Their advantage lies not only in the deeper tread depth, but also the lower operating temperature of the rubber, which retains offers superior traction, steering and braking compared to all-season and summer tires.

Personal injury arising out of car accidents

In a car accident, ascertaining liability is key to evaluating the claim. That a driver did not know when to put on winter tires is an important factor in terms not only of compensation but also the insurance claim. Whereas a conscientious driver will keep their vehicle in safe mechanical fettle, one can ask, and compellingly so: is installing winter tires not equally important to meeting the standards of a safe driver, even if not specifically legislated to do so?

Third party investigators, independent analysis and witnesses will all play an important part in determining the outcome of the claim. Was the vehicle privately owned or a part of a rental fleet which was otherwise required to have winter tires – questions such as these will influence liability hugely.

Anyone having suffered personal injury may have more than one option to getting fair compensation for their injuries and loss of livelihood. Other than a claim under tort against the person at fault, there can be an accident benefit component too.

Car accident claims and suits, particularly those precipitated by wintery conditions require a deft and experienced touch. At Will Davidson LLP you know you have the expertise and resources at hand to get the fair and justiciable compensation you deserve for injuries you or your family have sustained.

Our Oakville car accident lawyers have over 90 years of experience handling catastrophic injury, trauma and other personal injury claims. Get in touch with our team to discuss the options you or your loved ones have to seek compensation for injury suffered due to a car accident.

Delays in Your Claim Can Let a Cannabis-Impaired Driver Off the Hook

 

According to statistics made available by the Canadian government, of the drivers who die in vehicle crashes, 40% test positive for drugs and more than the 33% test positive for alcohol. Whereas impaired driving is a malaise, it notes, driving high is one that is growing.

What the law looks for – Impared Driving

Cannabis is composed of several chemical compounds, called cannabinoids. Of these, the most relevant for testing drug-impaired driving is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC as it is better known. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for the ‘high’ and is, therefore, of most interest to law and order authorities.

Police stopping drivers by the roadside to test for cannabis-impaired driving will measure the THC concentration in blood, after making an on-the-spot judgment if the driver may have been driving high. A driver testing positive for between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood will invite a fine of up to $1000 under the new summary offence. Anything over 5ng/ml and the offence falls in the same category of drug-impaired driving as cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine, under the new hybrid offenses scheme. The scale shows the lack of tolerance towards drug-impaired driving.

The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse states unequivocally, “research evidence leaves little doubt that psychoactive prescription drugs can adversely affect cognitive and motor functions involved in the operation of a motor vehicle.”

Limitations of Roadside Drug Testing

Nevertheless, car accidents and personal injury caused due to impaired driving are set to bring additional challenges for claims and lawsuits. CTV News reports on the ‘Dräger Drug Test 5000’, a roadside saliva test which checks for the presence of THC (marijuana), opiates, cocaine and much more besides. A potential drawback: saliva “tested positive for THC even though it had been 10 hours” since smoking marijuana.

Mobile testing methods, particularly those carried by the police for testing roadside if drivers have been driving high, have some way to go before they become incontestable. This is reflected best in the fragmentation and lack of consensus between police forces around Canada about which tests they will use. The Globe and Mail reveals, as late as August 2018, just a few months before recreational use of marijuana was allowed:

Ottawa approved the Draeger DrugTest 5000, a device that allows officers to test driver’s saliva for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Right now, it’s the only approved device. But police in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax – along with the provincial force in Quebec – say they haven’t purchased the device.

There is a potential for drivers and road users at fault for accidents will be able to mitigate their liability by claiming improper results in police tests – potentially stultifying settlement talks or lengthening trials.

If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered loss of property due to the actions of a drug-impaired driver, get in touch with the Will Davidson LLP team of lawyers immediately. Marijuana and other accidents caused due to drug-impairment require rapid intervention to ensure that the party at fault is not able to scuttle a claim by delaying collection of material evidence.

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