Archive Monthly Archives: July 2020

McCormick v Plambeck: The end of social host liability?

On June 12, 2020 Chief Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued reasons for judgment in McCormick v. Plambeck, the latest word on social host liability in British Columbia and Canada more broadly. The Court’s reasons for judgment (all 91 pages) can be read in full here.

In a lengthy and detailed decision, the Chief Justice dismissed the plaintiff’s claim to fix the adult hosts of a house party attended by high school students with liability for his injuries under the emerging doctrine of social host liability. By rejecting the plaintiff’s claim on the basis that the “social hosts” did not owe him a duty of care, and that even if they did they met it by acting responsibly in all the circumstances, the Chief Justice has provided considerable clarity to this previously undeveloped area of tort law. While the door is not closed on injured persons in the future attempting to make such a claim, presumably on facts different enough to distinguish it from this case, the standard is such that (at least in British Columbia) it will be an uphill battle for these future plaintiffs.

For anyone who has ever hosted a party where alcohol was consumed, or plans to again in the future, the decision and legal analysis in McCormick v. Plambeck will be well received.

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