Offices in Ottawa and Perth
(613) 722-1500

CONTACT US (613) 722-1500

Social Host Liability and COVID-19

Social Host Liability and COVID-19


Posted December 23, 2021

This is the season when many of us would normally be attending holiday parties, dinners, and other social events with friends and family. Public health officials are advising the public to limit social gatherings and to take extra safety precautions at any events that do take place. If you decide to host such an event it is important to take measures to avoid liability as a social host.

What is Social Host Liability

The concept of social host liability arose when courts found that post event driving by an impaired guest was a potential source of social host liability. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that social hosts may be liable for the actions of their guests, even after the guests leave their property. In the 2006 case of  Childs v. Desormeaux , the Court suggested that social hosts could be liable for a car accident caused by an impaired guest if they served alcohol knowing that the guest would drive after the social event.

In the 2017 case of Wardak v. Froom,  the injured person, who the host owed a duty of care to  was a guest at the social event. The 18-year-old brought his own alcohol to the party and became intoxicated. After leaving the event, he crashed his car and was severely injured. In Wardak, the Court held that the hosts had a “paternalistic relationship” to the injured person and that they therefore owed him a duty of care that they breached when they let him drive away while impaired.

COVID-19 and Public Health Measures

Does a social host owe a duty of care to guests not to subject them to an unreasonable exposure to COVID-19?

Because of the current pandemic and the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, personal injury lawyers are debating whether social host liability could apply beyond situations where the host supplies alcohol to guests. Would a court find a host liable for the spread of COVID-19 at their event? The courts have not had to decide this issue, but it is something to be conscious of if you are hosting a social event this season.

In response to the Omicron variant Ontario has implemented additional health measures, including capacity limits for social gatherings. These are subject to future change on short notice.

If a host fails to comply with the limit on social gatherings and their event results in the spread of COVID-19, they are potentially liable for any damages their guests experience as a result of contracting it. A home insurance policy may not cover the social host under these circumstances, because most policies have a communicable disease exclusion. The result could be that the host is  personally liable to pay any damages suffered by their infected guests.


If you are hosting a social event this Christmas, monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption and know and comply with provincial and local health unit’s recommendations. Taking these precautions will reduce your potential liability as a host.

This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams.  He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at

More Resources

Blog |
Business Law, Wills, Trusts and Estates


Posted June 28, 2022

As entrepreneurs, we tend to be optimistic people – that is what I have found, for the most part, and what seems to be part[...]
Blog |
Business Law


Posted June 20, 2022

The Federal Government of Canada recently launched the Canada Digital Adoption Program (“CDAP”) run by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (“ISED”). It is a[...]
Blog |
Estate Litigation


Posted June 13, 2022

Trust companies are often faced with a dilemma when the fees associated with the administration of a testamentary trust exceed the income generated by it. [...]
Blog |
Environmental Law


Posted June 6, 2022

On May 10, 2022, the Alberta Court of Appeal released its opinion in Reference re Impact Assessment Act (the “Act”), 2022 ABCA 165, on the[...]
Blog |
Personal Injury


Posted May 30, 2022

As the warm weather of summer approaches, the number of cyclists enjoying Ottawa’s shared path system is increasing day by day. I have noticed that[...]
Blog |
Family Law


Posted May 25, 2022

Cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts (or “prenups”) are common contracts for couples to enter into prior to moving in together or getting married. Reasons for[...]

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.