In late 2018 the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its reasons for judgment in Williams v. Richard, the latest in a series of court decisions grappling with the concept of social host liability in Canada. The decision can be read in full here. Williams was an appeal from a summary judgment motion where the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for damages arising from serious personal injuries following a single vehicle incident involving a drunk driver. At issue before both the motion judge and the Court of Appeal was the state of social host liability law in Canada.
As Alcohol & Advocacy has previously reported, the law with respect to social host liability in Canada has been uncertain for some time. In another recent decision out of Ontario, Wardak v. Froom, the court refused to determine at an early stage that a social host could not or did not owe its guests a duty of care to prevent them from driving drunk.
Williams, if it proceeds to trial, may establish precedent that firmly expands the legal liability of social hosts to include the actions of their intoxicated guests when they get behind the wheel. The facts in Williams are grim, creating a very real risk that bad facts may lead to bad law.
On February 13, 2019 the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal released its reasons in Unfiltered Brewing Incorporated v. Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. Those reasons can be read in full here. The appeal was dismissed, with costs ordered payable by Unfiltered Brewing to the Attorney General of Nova Scotia. The trial judge’s reasons are summarized here.
In the recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision R. v. Roudiani, the accused was charged with aggravated assault arising from an incident near the intersection of Granville and Smithe Streets in Vancouver – the heart of the Granville Entertainment District. Mr. Roudiani was ultimately acquitted and those reasons can be read in full here. Mr. Roudiani was successfully defended by a friend of Alcohol & Advocacy – Mr. Joven Narwal.
Of interest to readers of Alcohol & Advocacy is the unreported decision of Mr. Justice N. Smith on a voir dire relating to the admissibility of BarWatch records at trial. Mr. Roudiani asserted that the use of this information gathered by the police during its investigation was a breach of his Charter right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
On October 22, 2018 the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission announced that “effective immediately” bars and restaurants are allowed to mix liquor products with ingredients such as spices, herbs and fruits as well as create house-aged liquor products. Additional changes will allow Albertans to take liquor served at a hotel bar to their rooms or other areas within the hotel.
British Columbia’s liquor laws have permitted these practices since January, 2017.
Other key changes include:
The complete news release can be read here.
In January of this year the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia issued its decision in the matter of Unfiltered Brewing Inc. v. Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. That decision can be read in full here. You can also find a summary of that decision over at Slaw.ca.
The trend of Canadian consumers and licensees challenging how provincial governments regulate, tax, and sell alcohol is alive and well in 2018. The anticipation in advance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Comeau, and the widespread media attention following its release, speaks for itself. From coast-to-coast Canadians are dissatisfied with the regimes in place in their respective provinces that tax and restrict the sale of alcohol. The ink spilled over Comeau tells us something else too: very few Canadians actually understand how the liquor licensing and retail regimes in their respective provinces operate.
Earlier this summer Mr. Justice Boswell of the Federal Court of Canada released his decision in Diageo Canada Inc. v. Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., which resolved a trademark and passing off dispute between two significant players in the liquor industry. At issue in Diageo v. Heaven Hill is the similarity in Diageo’s Captain Morgan mark, and Heaven Hill’s Admiral Nelson mark. Both marks are used by their respective owners to identify and market their lines of rum.
Alcohol & Advocacy has previously examined the law of commercial host liability in British Columbia. Today most patrons and employees of licensed establishments are familiar with the concept of commercial host liability: bars and restaurants owe a duty or care to ensure that if their patrons become intoxicated they do not harm themselves or others who come in contact with them. The classic example of a situation where a commercial host will be found liable is when an over-served customer gets behind the wheel, and later harms another user of the road.
The Yukon Party are making headlines again up north by revisiting (from the opposition benches) a plank from their unsuccessful 2016 election platform: eliminating the government markup on locally produced alcohol and allowing producers to sell directly to retailers.
On March 8, 2017 Mr. Justice Kent of the Supreme Court of British Columbia released his reasons in Widdowson v. The Cambie Malone’s Corporation – British Columbia’s most recent decision on commercial host liability. The court found the Cambie Malone’s liable for over-serving a patron who later struck Mr. Widdowson with his truck, causing him severe injuries, including brain damage.