Hosting a party? Reduce your risk of liability
During the most wonderful time of the year, friends and family gather to celebrate the festive season with presents, food and drink. During this joyous time, there is also the potential for accidents to happen – particularly when alcohol is involved.
Occupiers’ Liability legislation which exists in most Canadian provinces means that if you fail to provide a reasonable standard of care to keep your premises hazard-free, you may be held liable for a slip, trip or fall. Occupiers include owners, tenants and those who rent out special venues for events.
According to the law, party hosts must ensure the property is safe in terms of physical conditions (remedy slip and fall hazards), the guests they invite and the activities that take place. In other words, the host has a duty of care towards any invited guests.
If someone suffers an alcohol-related injury during or after a holiday party on your property, you could be found legally liable in the following cases:
- You serve alcohol to a guest who is intoxicated and plans to drive.
- You don’t take reasonable steps to ensure your guests are safe while at your party.
- An intoxicated guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident after leaving your party.
- You organize a company party where intoxicated employees continue to be served alcohol.
- You allow an underage child to drink alcohol or host a party on your property where alcohol is consumed.
It’s your responsibility to manage alcohol consumption. Here are some ideas to keep your guests safe:
- Greet every guest on arrival. You can assess if they have been drinking, and also determine if they drove to your party – and take necessary action from there.
- Find out who the designated drivers are. Be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages for them.
- Don’t request that guests bring their own alcohol. BYOB infers that you have given them permission to drink excessively on your property.
- Have plenty of food for your guests. Include high protein and fat items like chicken and eggs, which slows the processing of alcohol in the body.
- Have games or dancing so guests have to put their drinks down periodically.
- Prepare a spare room for those who overindulge and can’t drive or don’t have a designated driver.
- If necessary, send intoxicated guests home in a taxi – and be prepared to pay for it.
- Don’t drink too much yourself. In fact, stay sober. As host, you are the person who is responsible for making sure everyone is safe.
Besides keeping a close eye on alcohol consumption at your party, you need to prepare your home to avoid unpleasant accidents on your property.
Make walkways safe
Snow and ice can lead to slips and falls. Shovel snow and scrape away ice from your entryway, walkways, sidewalks, stairs and driveway. Then salt these areas to prevent freezing.
Keep pets in a separate space
You love your pet, and your guests probably do too. But even the most docile dog or cat can become aggressive if it feels threatened or intimidated. If a guest is bitten or scratched, or even trips over a pet that is underfoot, you are liable. Make sure Rover is safely away from the action.
Shed more light
While it’s nice to set the mood with soft lighting and candles, it’s also important to make sure that your guests can see enough to be able to find their way around your home. Keep the front porch and parking areas well lit too.
Remove slip and fall hazards
Do a walk-through and pick up or fix any potential hazards such as throw rugs, toys, loose cords and wires, shoes and other objects. As guests arrive, give each one a plastic bag for their shoes and store them in another room. This keeps shoes from piling up at the front door.
Review your homeowners’ policy
Your policy may include coverage for any personal liability lawsuits. Review it to make sure you are covered, and that your limits are sufficient.
As a responsible holiday host, be extra vigilant in observing your guests’ behaviour to ensure your guests’ safety so everyone can enjoy the festive season and a happy new year!