By Sara Ametrano & Darlene Chin
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The decorations, the gatherings, the food – the holidays are a time to get together and celebrate. They’re also the perfect time to understand a host’s duty of care.
While gatherings can provide opportunities to mingle casually with colleagues and promote camaraderie, employers need to know that they can be held liable for property damage, accidents and injuries caused by employees who overindulge with alcohol at the party.
Just as a bartender at a restaurant can be held legally liable for over-serving a patron, an employer can also be held accountable if they serve alcohol at an event and an incident subsequently occurs. A host found himself in this sort of scenario, when a court ruling made in 2018 was overturned earlier this year.
In the case of Williams v. Richard, it was originally found that the host (Richard) did not owe a duty of care to the guest (Williams), who was involved in a vehicle collision after consuming alcohol at Richard’s event. The original decision was ruled in favour of Richard, as Williams had initially driven safely home after the event, and the collision hadn’t occurred until Williams drove away from his home after his safe return. It could be argued that the duty of care ended upon Williams original safe arrival home. However, when the case was brought to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the initial decision was overturned, and Richard was indeed found liable.
A couple other examples liability issues that may arise at company holiday parties include:
- An employee or his/her “plus one,” who might just be an enthusiastic dancer, slips and hits his/her head on the corner of a table resulting in a concussion;
- Employees or their guests who don’t particularly care for each other come to blows.
Although having the proper coverage is certainly helpful in the event an injury, it does not negate the need for precautionary measures. So, how can you minimize the chances of an accident and potential lawsuit in the first place?
With the holidays finally (already) here, our gift to you is some useful tips to keep in mind for all your holly jolly events:
- Review your current general liability insurance policy to determine your coverage before you host an event;
- Host your party at a hotel, restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your office. That way you transfer the obligation to the provider of the liquor;
- Ensure no one will be driving after drinking; cabs and designated drivers are great options for getting home safely;
- Ensure any spills on floors are quickly cleaned, and have everyone avoid the area;
- In the event of snow and ice, ensure there is sufficient snow shoveling and anti-ice measures in place;
- Record all relevant information such as named and contact information of any witnesses who were present or have information relevant to the incident.
Throw the safest and most fun holiday bash this year! Get in touch with a Trisura Property & Casualty underwriter to learn more. Contact us here.