Although this year may not be your usual holiday celebration, we all typically enjoy gathering with friends and family to celebrate since it’s an opportunity to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. In a post-pandemic world, feel free to throw parties, but don’t get so caught up in the festive spirit that you forget to protect your guests (and yourself!) We’ve put together some party liability insurance and liquor liability insurance considerations for you to keep in mind so the fun never ends, even when the night is over.
Liability insurance for slip-and-falls
So, you’re hosting a holiday party with some friends or family. All is planned: food, drinks, decorations, egg nog, music… you’re all ready to go, but have you considered the rest of these items on our party preparation checklist?
- Clean up and remove anything that may interfere with guests walking around freely
- Make sure your outdoor walkway is safe by removing any snow and ice, putting down some salt and making sure it is well-lit
- Fix any faulty railings or steps on the stairs, as well as other necessary repairs to walkways
- Always remember that as the party host, you are responsible to ensure your guests are in a safe environment. Unfortunately, even with the best laid plans, accidents can and do happen. It can be as innocent as a friend slipping on a wet floor, or someone overly intoxicated injuring themselves or others. Keep an eye on your guests and be mindful of situations where people may get hurt. If someone spills a drink on the floor or a glass breaks, clean it up quickly so no one gets hurt
Liquor Liability Insurance
As a host, you don’t want to take the chance of being sued, let alone contributing to injuries to one of your guests or other parties. Have you ever had a friend over that had a few too many? Did you send them home in a cab or take away their keys? If not, you may be liable for any bodily injury or property damage that arises. Why? As a homeowner, you have potential liability for bodily injury or property damage arising out of the negligent serving or distribution of alcohol on your property.
Third-party liability coverage is the portion of an insurance policy that protects you if you’re sued (or threatened to be sued) for a physical injury or damage to someone else’s property.
What is a social host?
Looking to Ontario’s host liability law, a social host is someone who holds a party on their property, whether they provide the alcohol or organize a “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bottle) event. The ‘social host’ in Ontario falls into three categories:
- Anyone who is not selling or providing alcohol for profit
- Anyone who has a unique, or non-employer relationship, with their guests
- Anyone serving or condoning alcohol on a premise over which they have control
FYI: Having a BYOB party MAY reduce some of your responsibility, but it won’t likely eliminate it.
Your legal liability as a social host
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you may be responsible for your guests when you serve alcohol on your property. Forms of liquor liability include:
- Liability as a server: Serving people past the point of intoxication.
- Liability as an occupier: A person who owns, has possession of or responsibility for premises are responsible for protecting people on their premises from harm.
- Anyone involved in the service of alcohol could be held liable for damages or injuries where alcohol is deemed to have been a contributing factor.
- Liability as an employer regarding employees consuming alcohol, i.e. at staff parties.
- Liability as a sponsor of potentially dangerous activities.
Many people think that after their guests leave, it is no longer their responsibility. However, this is not the case. You could still be sued for anything that happens after your guest leaves your home after being served liquor at your property. Remember you are the host, and these are your friends and family. You don’t want them hurt and you don’t want then accidentally hurting others, so always ensure they have a safe plan to get home, whether that’s an Uber or sober designated driver.
Remember: If you are planning on going out and having a drink, ensure you yourself have a safe plan on how to get home.
Hosting a party and your insurance options
When considering your insurance options, there are several must-do’s:
- If you’re having a formal company event or a large gathering, you’ll want to get a liquor license and liquor liability insurance. A Special Occasion Permit from the LCBO is only $25 and Liquor Liability Insurance is as low as $150 for a single event. You’ll especially want to do this if you’re having a large event.
- Party Alcohol Liability Insurance (PAL): This is useful coverage if you are hosting a cocktail party or gathering where alcohol will be served. This is designed for event hosts who are holding reception-type events in a rented facility, like a hall. A license for a gathering under 100 people is $150, and provides liability coverage from $1-5 million dollars.
- If you’re just hosting a party for a few people over to your condo or apartment, all you need is condo or tenant insurance. You’ll want this for other reasons as well, such as coverage for your belongings or water damage, but the liability coverage is really what you need here.
FYI: In terms of liability insurance, one or two million dollars’ coverage is the norm. You may also want to consider an umbrella liability policy, which covers you for higher liability limits, such as five or ten million dollars.
Tips for hosting responsibly
1. Keep an eye on your guests
Sharing the hosting duties with someone else helps take the burden off of you and allows you to enjoy your party with peace-of-mind. Look for signs of over-consumption in your guests and have a proactive plan for guests that may have been problematic in the past.
TIP: Hire someone to serve the alcohol and help you to monitor your guests rather than having an open bar.
2. Offer non-alcoholic beverages
It is a good idea to have a variety of beverages available as options for your guests. Non-alcoholic punch is a great way to get in the festive mood while offering an alternative. At the end of the evening, switch from serving alcohol to coffee, tea and still or sparkling water.
3. Movies, games and other activities
Don’t make drinking the focus of the festivities. Having a favorite holiday movie playing in the background, a clear space for dancing or karaoke are fun options. Making board games or some silly party games available also gives people ways to interact that don’t rely on drinking alcohol as the main activity.
4. Feed your guests
Ensure there are lots of different food options throughout the evening, not just at the start. Guests are more likely to nibble when fresh options become available, rather than food that has been out most of the night. When alcohol is cut-off, bringing out the tea and coffee with some snacks (like sandwiches) helps to slow down the pace of the evening.
5. Call a cab or Uber
If you are hosting, make sure your guests have a plan on how they are getting home. According to MADD Canada, four people die every day in Canada from impaired driving and 175 are injured. There are great apps out now that make it easier than ever to get a cab (#TAXI) or an UBER ride. Having a designated driver is always smart, as well as using public transit in the city.
6. Plan for overnight guests
We all know a friend or family member that likes to celebrate a little more than everyone else. Make a plan in advance to ensure that guests who become too intoxicated may have a place to sleep. Having a few breakfast items stocked in preparation makes for an easier next day plan, and will give you peace-of-mind that your guests are all safe for the evening.
Having things well-planned ahead of time always ensures people have the best time and mitigates any accidents which may happen. As always, if you have any questions about liquor liability insurance or party liability insurance, contact your isure broker today. Have fun this holiday season and drink responsibly!