Are Social Hosts Responsible in the Death of 1 Teen and Injury of Another After They Leave Party Drunk and High?

March 24, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Group of Teens SingingWith the advent of COVID-19 and social distancing and social isolation house parties this spring are likely to be less of a problem than in the past. This case however, raises an interesting question – Are the party hosts liable for underage guest teens’ safety?

In 2012 Calder McCormick and other teens attended a birthday party / graduation party on Salt Spring Island, B.C. It was a usual small town party with parents, The Pearsons,  hosting on a larger property. As the night went on the adults let the teens drink on the property and many became intoxicated. Mr. McCormick and another young male left the party around 2 am. They wandered into the woods and found a station wagon on another property with the keys in it. They stole the car and crashed into a tree. The driver died almost immediately of TBI while Mr. McCormick survived with injuries. The crash scene wasn’t discovered for hours. Toxicology reports show that the other male had blood alcohol over the limit and marijuana in his system.

Mr. McCormick claims that the two adult hosts were responsible for the well being of the minor guests while on the property and should have had a plan to keep them safe afer the party I they were consuming drugs or alcohol.

Social host liability in regards to minors is a novel issue in the Canadian courts and in Canadian law. A 2006 Supreme Court decision ruled that adult hosts were not responsible after an adult guest got into his car, left the part impaired, and crashed into another car. The case did not address the differing responsibility of parents who host teenage parties, and the case did indeed leave open the question of hosts being liable in certain circumstance.

In this case, the Pearsons deny the allegations that they were negligent. They claim that Mr. McCormick and / or his parents were responsible for his own wellbeing. They also point to Mr. McCormick’s pattern of poor behavior as an indicator that he had a history of bad decision making. Mr. MrCormick had a well documents history of drinking, using drugs and driving. They claim that his parents should have done more to ensure the safety of their own son. They should have had a plan to get him home safely. The Pearsons also claim that in light of the fact Mr. McCormick’s brother got home without him should have alerted the parents to the potential of problems.

In Canada licenced restaurants and bars have a legal duty of care to not allow customers to become impaired on the premises and if they do, the hosts must ensure the guest has a safe ride home. Social hosts however, who serve alcohol at home, have not such special duty of care to guests or anyone else who is injured as a result of the guests alcohol consumption at the event.

Mr. McCormick seeks to convince the court that the parents at the party owed a duty of care to the guests which would set a precedent for adults who allow drinking or serve alcohol in their homes. Such a ruling would have profound impacts on how people socialize at house parties. Mr. McCormick also tried to sue the deceased driver for driving drunk and high, speeding and texting behind the wheel thereby endangering his life.  The court will be left to determine how much blame the driver will bare in this case. Mr. McCormick claims that the driver enticed him to enter the stolen vehicle.

This case is at trial and we will keep you posted of the outcome of the tragic case.



Posted under Accident Benefit News, Automobile Accident Benefits, Brain Injury, Car Accidents, Distracted Drivers, Drunk Driving Accidents, Personal Injury, concussion, drug impaired driving, traumatic brain injury

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at 1-519-742-7774.

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