Case Commentary – Social Host Liability of Parents for Underage Drinking


Some parents may allow their older teenagers to drink alcohol at home, sometimes with family over a meal, or with their friends, the rationale being that their ability to supervise and encourage responsible behaviour fosters a safer environment. However, a recent decision reminds us that parents that allow underage drinking at home may be personally liable in the event of personal injury.

Social host liability in Canada

Social host liability is a term used to describe the responsibility of a private host that serves alcohol to ensure the safety of their guests. This is distinct from commercial host liability, which applies to establishments that are selling alcohol to guests for profit. The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that a social host may potentially be liable to a party guest in some circumstances, but has declined to extend liability to a third party that was injured by a guest after he had left a social gathering.

Wardak v Froom – Social hosts and underage drinking 

This case involves underage drinking at the home of the defendants, whose teenage daughter and some friends consumed alcohol in the basement while her parents were upstairs. One of the guests, an eighteen year old, was catastrophically injured after leaving the party in his car. The injured party, and his family, sued the defendants for failing to meet their duty of care to the teenager by preventing him from becoming intoxicated, and later driving.

The defendants brought a motion to have the claim dismissed, claiming that the current law respecting social host liability meant that the plaintiffs could not succeed at trial. However, the court disagreed, finding that the Supreme Court had left it open to find liability where there was a “paternalistic relationship” or where the injured party had been a guest. Although the injured party was an adult, he was not of legal drinking age, and was a guest a resident. On the facts, there may be sufficient evidence for finding the social host liable at trial.

Personal injury lawyers for social host liability claims

This case will proceed towards trial, and leaves the door open for social host liability claims by party guests and that have suffered personal injuries after consuming alcohol at a private gathering. At Jasmine Daya & Co., we offer thoughtful legal advice to personal injury victims, including anyone injured after attending a private party, or where impaired driving was a factor. We offer free consultations to new clients. Contact us today, either online, or by calling our office at 416-967-9100.