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More on Commercial Host Liability and Excessive Alcohol Service

As previously discusseda commercial host can be liable for damages if they serve patrons to the point of intoxication and those patrons then are injured or cause injury to others.  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this topic.
In yesterday’s case (Van Hove v. Boiselle) the Plaintiff was injured in a “fatal motor vehicle accident”.  The defendant was allegedly drunk at the time.  Prior to the collision the Defendant was drinking at the Artful Dodger Pub “to the point that the Defendant became heavily intoxicated“.
The Plaintiff sued the driver for damages.  ICBC, in the defence of the claim, brought Third Party proceedings agaisnt the Pub arguing they were partly at fault for the collision due to over-service.  The Pub brought a summary trial arguing the claims against them should be dismissed.  Mr. Justice Smith refused to dismiss the claim finding the case could not be disposed of by summary trial and dismissed the Pub’s application.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[16] The duty of care that commercial hosts who serve alcohol owe to the general public arises out of the profit making nature of the enterprise and the well-known dangers associated with the product. It is generally foreseeable that intoxicated patrons may, as a direct result of their intoxication, cause injury to others.

[17] The question then becomes one of the standard of care – whether, in the circumstances of a particular case, the commercial host did what was necessary to fulfill the duty. That inquiry includes the question of the whether the actual circumstances and means of injury were foreseeable.

[18] A plaintiff who proves breach of both the duty and the standard of care must then prove causation – whether the breaches actually caused the injury, which would not have occurred “but for” the negligent conduct of the defendant.

[19] L.J.D. in effect submits that Ms. Boiselle’s safe arrival home proves that the standard of care was complied with and/or proves that the chain of causation was broken. In my view, that ignores the highly fact-specific nature of both inquiries. The proposition that L.J.D. puts forward may well be one the properly applies in many, if not most, cases of this kind, but it cannot be treated as a principle of law that applies regardless of any additional facts that may arise in an individual case.

[20] One such fact in this case, on which I do not have sufficient evidence, is the level of Mr. Goll’s intoxication. If L.J.D.’s employees knew or ought to have known that he was as intoxicated as Ms. Boiselle, or nearly so, it may be open to a trial judge to find, on all of the evidence, that allowing her to leave the pub in his company did not meet the standard of care. It may also be open to a trial judge to find that her arrival home with an equally intoxicated person did not amount to a “safe” arrival within the meaning of the authorities and did not break the chain of causation.

[21] I therefore find myself unable to find the facts necessary to decide this matter on summary trial and the third party’s application must be dismissed.

bc injury law, Commercial Host Liability, Duty of Care, Mr. Justice Smith, Van Hove v. Boisselle