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Childs v Desormeaux, 2006 SCC 18 (Link)

Facts:

Zimmerman and Courier had a party where guest brought their own alcohol. Desormeaux was intoxicated and left the party driving a car. D had a history of drinking and driving. D drove his vehicle into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle head-on. One of the passengers in the other car was killed, three seriously injured. Childs, who was injured, sued hosts for breach of duty of care.

Trial
** Was foreseeable by the host
** But policy reasons (legislation should say yes)
Appeal
** No duty of care
** Social hosts aren’t expected to monitor the guests

Childs appealed.

Issue(s):

Do the hosts of a BYOB party have a duty of care to third party users of highways who may be injured by intoxicated by party guests?

Ratio:

Social hosts of parties (where alcohol is served) do not owe a duty of care to third-parties who may be injured by intoxicated party guests.

Note that Canada is much harder on commercial establishments. There is a statutory cause of action in some provinces (over-serving someone is a cause of action), but they are much narrower than causes of action found in common law.

Analysis:

Hosts of a BYOB party were found to not have a duty of care the any persons affected by the actions of someone who attended the party and drank
** Hosts were not expected to be able to ascertain the level of intoxication
** Not a for-profit event

Distinguishing factors:
** Not for profit
** BYOB
** Hosts were not trained to detect intoxication; supervision

Cases in which a duty of care may exist, in relation to the case at bar
** 1. Where defendant intentionally creates and brings people to a dangerous event
** 2. Paternalist relationships of supervision and control
** 3. Public function or commercial enterprise that includes implied responsibilities to the public at large
** Themes:
*** Defendant’s material implication in the creation of risk or his or her control of a risk to which others have been invited
*** Autonomy of the persons affected by the positive action proposed; Only when there is a special relationship can the law impinge on autonomy
*** Reasonable reliance: When people who are invited to a dangerous activity have a reasonable expectation that the invitors will ensure that the risk is reasonable and to rescue if necessary

Policy considerations
** Court noted that such a duty would be difficult to enforce.

Holding:

Appeal dismissed.


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