All Posts by Dan Coles

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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Enforcement Order Reconsideration Part 3: Administrative Independence

In Parts 1 & 2 of the reconsideration series, Alcohol & Advocacy observed that the delegates of the General Manager of the Liquor and Cannabis Licensing Branch who decide enforcement hearings and make reconsideration decisions are not truly independent – that is to say that as employees (or agents) of the Branch they lack, or give the appearance of lacking, true administrative detachment from the very body that investigated and chose to prosecute an alleged contravention of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act.

When Canadians think about “independent” decision makers, we often thing about judges who enjoy security of tenure (lifetime appointments), financial security (full time employment, benefits, etc.), and administrative independence (judges work out of courthouses, not government offices). With these hallmarks of judicial independence in place, persons appearing before the court can feel comfortable that the judge deciding their case is able to decide it on the merits, without interference or influence of any kind from any source, including another branch of government. Importantly judges are also required to appear independent.

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Enforcement Order Reconsideration Part 2: Is the reconsideration process fair and efficient?

In Part 1 of this three-part series on the reconsideration process, Alcohol & Advocacy explained the mechanics of the reconsideration process. Now we delve a little deeper.

Six years ago Parliamentary Secretary John Yap submitted his Final Report on liquor law and policy review to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. His report made 73 recommendations calling for “substantive reforms” to modernize British Columbia’s liquor laws, distilled from his consultations with members of the public and industry stakeholders, albeit limited by his terms of reference. The report in fall can be read here.

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Enforcement Order Reconsideration Process Part 1: How does reconsideration work?

British Columbia’s “new” Liquor Control and Licensing Act, which came into effect January, 2017 introduced a new internal review process for licensees on the receiving end of enforcement orders. This process, called “reconsideration” allows a liquor licensee or permittee to apply to have the decision made against them reconsidered if it meets one of the three prescribed grounds:

  • there is substantial and material evidence that is new or was not discovered or discoverable at the time of the original hearing;
  • there was an error of law (other than a constitutional error of law regarding cannabis reconsideration); or
  • there was a failure to observe the rules of procedural fairness.

The grounds listed above are the only basis that a decision may be reconsidered.

Over the course of three articles Alcohol & Advocacy will explore the mechanics of this new procedure.

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Social Media and Marketing in B.C’s Liquor Industry

In February, 2015 Alcohol & Advocacy summarized the rules and restrictions then in place for advertising and marketing by bars, restaurants and liquor agents.

In December, 2019 the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch published a useful refresher on these principles, with references to law and regulation as well as licensee terms and conditions. Usefully, the six page publication also contains plenty of examples of what is unacceptable (apparently taken from “common non-compliant social media messaging”). The document can be read in full here.

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Inaugural International Wine Law Association Conference held in Vancouver

On February 24, 2020 the Vancouver offices of Norton Rose Fulbright hosted the Canadian Chapter of the International Wine Law Association’s (Association Internationale des Juristes du Droit de la Vigne et du Vin or “AIDV”) first wine law and policy conference. AIDV was founded over 30 years ago to promote and develop wine law on an international basis.  The Canadian Chapter of AIDV, which was more recently formed, is the successor to the Vancouver Wine and Liquor Law Conference which ran successfully for ten years.

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Roncarelli v. Duplessis: Abuse of power by the Quebec Liquor Commission

Provincial liquor Acts furnish their respective jurisdictions with a complete code for the administration of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Mr. Justice Rand of the Supreme Court of Canada, all the way back in 1959, observed that these provincial Acts recognize the association of wines and liquors as embellishments of food and “its ritual as an interest of the public”. He went on to find that once obtained, a licence or permit to sell alcohol at a bar or restaurant becomes a vital part of that establishment. This was over 60 years ago.

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Gambling in bars in British Columbia

British Columbia’s Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch defines gaming (also called gambling) “as playing or gaming, for money or other stakes, on an uncertain event; it involves chance and the hope of gaining something more than the amount paid to participate.” This definition can be found in the Liquor Primary and Food Primary Terms and Conditions.

Generally speaking, only very limited forms of gaming are permitted in pubs and bars in British Columbia. Slot machines (VLTS) for example are only permitted in licensed gaming venues such as casinos and race tracks. Unlicensed gaming pools, including those associated with major sporting events, are prohibited under the Criminal Code of Canada.

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Liquor & Non-medical Cannabis Compliance & Enforcement: A&A’s 2019 round-up

2019 has been a busy year thus far for the British Columbia Liquor & Non-medical Cannabis Compliance & Enforcement program. Sales to minors, serving intoxicated patrons (or serving patrons to the point of intoxication) and staff drinking on the job remain the leading causes of enforcement action. No surprises here.

The rules and regulations in British Columbia that govern how liquor is bought, sold, stored, marketed and consumed are complex and always changing. It is important that licensees and their staff remain informed of changes to Branch policy and the terms and conditions handbook. Below is a snapshot of the enforcement proceedings that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has pursued this year.

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