If you cause a drunk driving accident in Ontario, you could face criminal charges that affect you for the rest of your life. However, DUIs are not always the sole responsibility of the person behind the wheel. Several other parties—including dram shops and social hosts—could be partly to blame for giving you too much alcohol or allowing you to drive when you were clearly over the limit.

What Is a Dram Shop?

Bars and restaurants in Ontario might be partially liable for a DUI if the person who drove drunk was sold an intoxicating beverage illegally. Bars, restaurants, taverns, and other establishments that serve alcohol (dram shops) can be held accountable for dram shop violations such as:

  • Serving alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated
  • Serving alcohol to a minor
  • Selling alcohol without a valid liquor license
  • Selling alcohol outside of permitted drinking hours

What Is a Social Host?

Ontario law also allows social hosts, or people who host a gathering where alcohol is served, to share responsibility for a DUI incident. To meet the definition of a “social host,” the liable party must be one of the following:

  • A person or entity who provides alcohol to guests free of charge
  • A person or entity who has a non-employer relationship with guests (such as friends or relatives)
  • Someone who serves or condones alcohol to be served on premises they own or control

It’s worth noting that social host responsibility exists whether alcohol is provided or guests bring their beverages. Hosts are not relieved of their duty to oversee and monitor alcohol consumption just because guests brought or mixed their own drinks.

Types of Third-Party Liability for a DUI in Ontario

There are specific legal standards that bars and social hosts are held to in the interest of preventing drunk driving accidents:

  • Server liability. Bars and private hosts are permitted to serve alcohol to guests, within reason. That means restricting or “cutting off” anyone already visibly impaired. If someone continues to serve alcohol to a guest who showed clear signs of intoxication, they could be held liable.
  • Sponsor liability. A person can also be held liable if they see potentially dangerous activities but allow them to continue, such as witnessing a drunk guest leave your house and head toward their car. Under the law, this is condoning or “sponsoring” their drunk driving.
  • Premises liability. Businesses and homeowners are ultimately liable for anything on their property, such as if a minor drinks alcohol from an unattended wine rack and drives drunk.

Proving That a Third Party Is Liable in Your DUI Case

There is a difference between civil charges and criminal charges after a DUI accident. While you may have been arrested on criminal charges, it’s much more challenging to levy criminal charges against a third party. After all, the third party wasn’t the one operating the vehicle. However, shifting some of the blame to a negligent bar or host could reduce your charges or even put the third party on the hook for paying restitution to the victims of your accident.

Some questions your lawyer may ask a negligent host or server include the following:

  • Were non-alcoholic options available, such as water, tea, or coffee?
  • Did you institute a cut-off point at a particular time so that guests had time to sober up before leaving?
  • Did you ask about designated drivers and offer them non-alcoholic beverages?
  • Was food served along with alcohol?
  • Could you tell that the defendant was intoxicated?
  • Did a bartender mix the alcohol, or did guests help themselves?
  • Did you offer a taxi service or a place for the intoxicated person to sleep instead of driving home?
  • Did you see the intoxicated person leave or get behind the wheel of a car?

At Kruse Law Firm, our criminal defence team works aggressively to minimize the impact a criminal charge can have on your life. We can question the blood alcohol content results and other evidence against you, getting the most favorable outcome in your case. Contact us today at 800-699-0806 to arrange your free case review.

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