Businesses such as bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to their customers have a legal duty not serve people who are obviously intoxicated. They also have a responsibility to prevent impaired customers from driving. For example, arrange another transportation home for them; obtain their car keys and offer them accommodation. If these efforts fail, they can call the police.
A recent case dealt with a claim against a driver, and a Steveston hotel pub where the driver had spent some time drinking. On leaving the pub, the driver could barely walk to his car.
A woman who knew the driver tried unsuccessfully to alert the staff and other patrons that he should not drive home. Court documents of her testimony reveal that she yelled out: “Is anyone going to help me find someone to drive his car for him?” After driving away from the pub, he “plowed into” a group of people on a nearby street, seriously injuring four of them.
The first legal problem for the driver was a criminal prosecution. The driver pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm and received a 14-month conditional sentence.
In addition to criminal charges, the driver faced a claim for compensation for injuries by the four people he struck. The injured people also sued the hotel pub.
The judge said, “I conclude that the hotel had actual knowledge of (the driver’s) drunken state and the probability that, unless the hotel intervened, he would drive his car. (The driver) did not leave the pub with any sober persons…In these circumstances, when it knew or ought to have known of (the driver’s) intoxication and the real risk that he might drive, the hotel was obliged to prevent him from driving. The hotel did nothing.”
The judge described the driver’s conduct as “inexcusable” and went on to say that, “similarly, the hotel flagrantly ignored its responsibilities as a commercial host”. The judge decided that the hotel was as much to blame as the driver and divided the responsibility for the injuries as “50/50” between the driver and the hotel.
The case, Laface v. McWilliams, can be found on the website.
In previous cases, pubs and bars were partly responsible for car accidents caused by drunken customers. But not as much as “50/50”. The trend is now clear. What the courts are saying is that placing considerable responsibility on pubs and bars should motivate them to do whatever is necessary to prevent impaired customers from driving.
Pubs and bars are businesses and businesses respond on the basis of profit and loss. As alcohol-serving businesses (and their insurance companies) start to take this “profit and loss” issue more seriously, it may be expected that there will be a cultural change perhaps as big as the anti-smoking trend. Basically, these businesses, including restaurants, are being put into a very active monitoring role. Hopefully, all of this will help to prevent accidents.
Please drive safely.
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