Over-Serving & Occupiers’ Liability: A Guide To Hosting Over The Holidays

MG Law Injury Lawyers

Over-Serving and Occupiers’ Liability: A Guide To Hosting Over The Holidays

The holiday season is a joyous time for many, especially so after the last few years of Covid Christmases and limited social engagements. This year, before hosting your holiday parties, it’s important to remember that you have a responsibility to your guests to keep them safe, and them safe from harming others.

This means making sure your home is safe for guests and includes things like salting ice and repairing broken banisters. However, in addition to that, it means making sure your guests don’t overindulge in drugs or alcohol, especially if there is a risk of them getting behind the wheel.

Preventing Drinking And Driving Is The Responsibility Of The Host

Impaired driving kills any time of year. However, every holiday season, there seems to be a rise in impaired driving.

In 2019, coroners and medical examiners reported that just under one-third of drivers involved in fatal collisions had consumed alcohol, cannabis, or other illegal drugs. Alcohol accounted for the majority of these events at 72%.1

In 1977, Ontario’s RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program began and continues to go into full effect every holiday season to try and reduce impaired driving. This year the campaign kicked off on November 17th and will continue into the New Year, until January 2nd, 2023. These RIDE initiatives run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Even though taxis, Uber, and other ride-sharing apps exist, impaired driving remains the leading criminal cause of death in Canada.2  According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the impaired driving rate rose by 7.1% in 2021, after two years of decline.

How To Be A Good Host For Guests Who Are Driving

To help prevent anyone from driving home after drinking too much, it’s a good idea to take note at the beginning of the party of who is driving. Once you know that, you and others can keep an eye on their drinking habits and behaviour, to help you notice anyone who’s too intoxicated to drive.

Just because someone seems sober enough, if their blood alcohol is over 0.08, they will face criminal charges for driving intoxicated if caught. Anything between 0.05 BAC and 0.079 BAC can result in a warning. It’s important to note that while the legal drinking age may be 19 in Ontario, anyone under 21 who is driving must have zero alcohol in their system.

While it may be a difficult conversation to stop a friend from driving home drunk, it’s a conversation that could save lives. As the host, it is your responsibility to have this conversation and prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

Provide intoxicated guests with options, such as keeping their car in your driveway and paying for their cab. It’s better to be out $30 than to be complicit in a drunk driving accident.

You can also offer up your spare bedroom or couch. However, it’s important to note that alcohol takes a while to leave your system. You may sleep it off, but still be too drunk to drive in the morning. Many drunk driving charges are laid early in the morning against people who believed they had slept it off.

Some Tips To Make Holiday Parties Safe For Everyone Attending:

  1. Craft some holiday non-alcoholic cocktails you can serve.
  2. Make sure there’s plenty of cold water, seltzers, juice, and pop available.
  3. Make sure the party isn’t too focused on drinking or drinking games.
  4. Check in with those who aren’t drinking to make sure they aren’t feeling pressured.
  5. Prepare to serve food in order to absorb some of the alcohol and limit its intoxicating effects.
  6. Limit the number of guests at your party. Bigger groups are harder to keep an eye on.
  7. Before your party begins, look around your property to make sure it is reasonably safe.
  8. Remove any dangerous or potentially harmful items around your home.
  9. If you can afford it, have designated bartenders who can properly measure drinks and monitor people’s consumption.

After two years of staying home, some people may have a more difficult time socializing and may indulge too hard trying to get into the spirit.

Occupiers’ Liability Makes You Legally Responsible For Keeping Guests Safe  

When hosting a party or even inviting guests into your home, you have a duty to take reasonable care of the property to ensure no harm. Failure to do so could result in potential liability for personal injuries sustained on your property.

You can view the full details of the Occupiers’ Liability Act here.

To summarize, all occupiers of a premise owe a duty of care to ensure that all people entering the premises are reasonably safe. This applies all year long, but with winter hosting, comes making sure walkways are shoveled and salted, carpets are put down to avoid slipping indoors, and people’s paths are properly lit.

This includes regular maintenance of your home including all entranceways, decks, porches, walkways, and more.

The best way to keep yourself protected should something bad happen is to have a comprehensive home insurance policy. This should include personal liability coverage that can address any potential claims that result from a personal injury in your home or on your property.

Regularly Inspect Your Property To Ensure It’s Safe. This Includes:

  • Making sure entranceways are clean, tidy, and free from slippery substances
  • Making sure all of your steps and railings are properly installed and not falling apart
  • Salting and shoveling your sidewalks and pathways
  • Regularly maintaining fireplaces
  • Installing outdoor lights
  • Preparing fully stocked first-aid kits
  • Regularly testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

MG Law Understands The intricacies Of Occupiers’ Liability

MG Law wants to wish everyone a merry and bright holiday season. We understand the joy of celebrating with those you love, but it’s important to stay mindful of possible dangers and not overindulge. Set a good example for guests by making sure not to get too intoxicated yourself.

Our team handles all types of personal injury claims, including those related to breaches of Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act. If you’ve suffered a serious personal injury as a result of a hostess’s negligence or if a guest of yours has suffered the same fate, we can help. Call the experienced team here at MG Law to book a free consultation and learn your options.


  1. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/drive/mobility/article-drunk-driving-during-the-holidays-is-no-joke/
  2. https://www.oacp.ca/en/news/media-release-ontario-police-services-join-together-to-kick-off-the-festive-ride-campaign.aspx

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