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Recovering compensation in injury claims against bars, taverns, and social hosts
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Recovering compensation in injury claims against bars, taverns, and social hosts

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  • 1. Recovering Compensation in Injury Claims Against Bars, Taverns, and Social Hosts By Maciej Piekosz, Siskinds LLPYou are at a party with friends. You are drinking casually but are being encouraged to drink moreand drink heavily from the alcohol provided by your host. You are drunk by the time you get to abar for $1 shots. You manage to stay in the bar for several hours before being ejected. Whileoutside, you stumble into the street and are struck by a car. That car then veers into the oncominglane, colliding with another vehicle.The person hosting the party, the social host, and the bar serving you alcohol, the commercialhost, could be, in part, responsible for your injuries and the injuries caused by the resultingcollision.Responsibility for Guests and PatronsSociety’s decreasing tolerance for encouraging drinking, drinking and driving, consuming alcohol toexcess, or leaving an inebriated person to fend for themselves, is reflected by the courtswillingness to hold taverns and bars, commercial hosts making money from the sale and service ofalcohol, responsible for the safety and actions of their guests and patrons. It is reasonablyforeseeable that an injury will result from excessive drinking. Therefore, a commercial host whoover-serves or encourages excessive drinking may be responsible for the safety of his guests.A commercial host can also be found to be partially responsible for the actions of their guest if thatguest’s actions cause an injury to a third party. The responsibility of the host to a third party isespecially important in instances where a drunk driver has injured, for example, a motorist, apassenger in the vehicle, or a pedestrian. When serving alcohol, a host accepts the duty toreasonably insure that their intoxicated guests do not harm others. If they fail to satisfy that duty,they may be responsible for the consequences.Social hosts do not earn a profit from serving people beyond the point of intoxication so the courtstreat them differently. Social hosts can create a place where people meet, visit and drink alcohol,whether the alcohol is provided by the host or brought to the event by the guest. The courts havewww.siskinds.com Siskinds LLP
  • 2. -2-concluded that guests who leave the event and harm themselves or others remain responsible fortheir own actions in this context. However, the courts have warned that social hosts can beresponsible to their guests after they leave the party if circumstances warrant. For example, a hostwho knowingly continues to serve alcohol to a visibly drunk person knowing they will be drivinghome could be held responsible for that person’s resulting injuries or the resulting injuries to a thirdparty.Finally, whether a commercial host or a social host, you could be held responsible for harm thatpeople suffer while on your premises drinking alcohol. If your guest or patron falls down the stairsdrunk, gets in a fight or is incidentally injured by the roughhousing of others the host will probablybe held responsible.Assessing ResponsibilityHosts can increase the possibility of being responsible for injuries to their guests, patrons or thirdparties in a number of ways, including:• serving someone visibly intoxicated;• serving alcohol to an intoxicated person and then ejecting them;• failing to determine the patron’s condition before ejecting them;• serving someone when there is a reasonable expectation they will drive a vehicle (e.g. when the tavern or party is located in a rural area or near a major highway);• inability to monitory alcohol consumption (e.g. using a cash bar); and,• serving to an individual known to be irresponsible.Hosts can reduce their responsibility for injuries to their guests, patrons or third parties by:• not admitting an already intoxicated person;• monitoring the consumption of alcohol by avoiding cash bars, and relying instead on table service or the sale of drink tickets;• taking care of patrons unable to look after themselves due to intoxication;• ensuring the patron uses public transit or taxis;• ensuring the patron sobers or is handed over to the care and custody of a sober andwww.siskinds.com Siskinds LLP
  • 3. -3- responsible individual;• ensuring the patron arrives home safely and in the custody of sober person;• preventing the intoxicated patron from driving on the roadway; and,• taking all legal proactive action to prevent an intoxicated person from harming himself or others, including calling the police.Damages in a LawsuitCourts typically find a person injured after drinking alcohol to be primarily responsible for their ownactions and injuries. However, if that person was drinking alcohol at a commercial establishment,the courts have found the host can be at least partially responsible for the resulting injuries. Theinjured patron can then recover damages from the host in the amount of that host’s responsibility.For example, if the host is found 15% responsible for the injuries, then the patron can recover 15%of their damages from the host. This assessment of responsibility can significantly reduce thecompensation an injured patron can recover. However, a substantial monetary award may stillresult in cases of catastrophic injury.The partial responsibility of a host is especially significant in instances where a third party has beeninjured by the actions of a drunken patron (e.g. stepping into a roadway and causing a collision ordrunk driving). The law allows the third party to potentially recover 100% of their damages fromany party that is found to be at least partially responsible for their injuries. Therefore, if a host isfound at least 1% responsible for the injuries to a third party, and there is no other source of moneyfrom which an injured person can be compensated, the host must pay all of the injured person’sdamages.If have questions about your legal rights or would like more information on this topic please contactMaciej Piekosz at maciej.piekosz@siskinds.com or 519-660-7718 for a free consultation.www.siskinds.com Siskinds LLP