Staying Safe on St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 11, 2014 3 minute read

There are many ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day whether it’s wearing green, listening to Celtic music or celebrating in a local bar or restaurant. If you’re planning to partake in the festivities, don’t depend on the luck of the Irish to keep you and your guests safe.

If you’re hosting a house party, renting a venue or you own a bar, it’s important to consider liquor liability. The law in both Alberta and Ontario states whoever controls a property as an owner or renter is responsible for the safety of any guests. This includes preventing guests’ injuries or any injuries caused to a third party by one of the guests.

What does this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? You could be found to be legally responsible if people consume alcohol on your property and harm themselves or someone else.

The concept of host liability began with commercial hosts – owners of properties where alcohol is being sold for a profit. In 1972, the Supreme Court of Canada determined there was a special relationship between a bar and its patrons. Since the bar invites people to consume alcohol on the premises, it also has a responsibility to ensure everyone stays safe. The bar owners and workers must monitor patrons’ behaviour and stop serving alcohol to those who are intoxicated. When a patron under the influence of alcohol is asked to leave the property, the owner must ensure they have a safe way to get home and they do not drive.

Commercial host liability also covers the relationship between an employer and an employee. The law recognizes the balance of power lies with the employer and so it’s their responsibility to ensure employees stay safe. If alcohol is being served at special events, holiday parties and off-site meetings, employers must ensure staff don’t harm themselves or others, either at the party or on their way home.

The combination of liquor control laws and occupier’s liability laws have led to a number of lawsuits being brought against commercial hosts. In almost all cases, patrons were served alcohol past the point of intoxication and they injured a third party on their way home. The courts have found bars, hotels and restaurants responsible for any injuries sustained as the result of intoxication.

To protect business owners and companies, a variety of alcohol-related liability insurance policies can be purchased. These policies have higher liability limits and cover a number of situations. Whether you own a bar, hosting a party for staff at a rented venue, your BrokerLink broker can provide insurance options so you are protected on all occasions, including St. Patrick’s Day.

One important thing to consider when purchasing an alcohol liability policy is whether your event will be a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) event. These events are not permitted to be held in public venues such as community centres or banquet halls. If a special-event license has been obtained for your event, and guests supply their own alcohol, the license becomes invalid and you could face fines. Not only that, but insurance providers won’t issues alcohol liability policies for BYOB events. This places you, as the host, in a vulnerable situation where you could be found responsible for any injuries or accidents without any liability insurance in place.

Recently, host liability cases have been brought against non-commercial hosts in situations where someone was injured as a result of alcohol intoxication. If you serve alcohol at a house party, organize a function where alcohol will be consumed, or knowingly allow underage children to drink, you could face a costly lawsuit. Even if guests bring their own alcohol to your party, you still have a responsibility to ensure their safety. One of the most well-known social host liability cases in Canada involved a BYOB party, demonstrating the importance of your duty as a host.

Taking a few minutes now could save you time and a pot of gold in the future. When your guests first arrive, check to see if they have already been drinking and whether a designated driver brought guests to your party. If someone is already intoxicated, be sure they are not driving home. Consider taking away their car keys, call a taxi, or prepare for guests to stay overnight. It’s also a great idea to provide non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative. If guests are drinking, offer snacks higher in protein and fats (such as pizza) as food is an effective way to slow down the body’s processing of alcohol.

Preventing an alcohol-related injury or accidents takes more than just luck. Keep your guests’ safety top o’ mind this St. Patrick’s Day and call your BrokerLink broker if you have any questions.