Everything’s set. The food is ready. The house is decorated. Your guest tally is finalized.

You’ve checked your list twice.  Is there anything else you’ve forgotten?

If you’re hosting a holiday party this season, the one thing you may have overlooked is planning for any disasters.  Seriously, no one really wants to think about the bad things that can happen particularly at this time of year. But we’ve all heard about tragic events occurring during the holidays; in particular, ones involving alcohol consumption.

The last thing you want is one of your guests to be involved in an accident where someone gets hurt, especially as a result of excessive merrymaking.  Taking fifteen minutes to think about some simple measures to minimize those risks will be well worth it.

A primary consideration should be your guests’safety while they are on your property.  As a homeowner/occupier of a property, you have an obligation at law to ensure your property is reasonably safe and that no unusual dangers are lurking which may cause your guests harm. In the cold weather months, you want to check your driveway, walkway and entryway to ensure they are well-lit and clear of snow and ice. If there are any repairs required to your doorstep or hand railings or any drainage issues, get those fixed before the party!

Similarly, inside your house, make sure toys are off the floor and there is lots of space for your guests to move around, mingle and enjoy themselves.  As a host, you should attend to any food and drink spills immediately to avoid slips.   If your guests get rowdy and damage a neighbour’s fence, you may be responsible for the repairs.

If you plan to serve alcohol at your party, you face the potential of “social host” liability in circumstances where an intoxicated guest drives away and injures someone else.  The Supreme Court of Canada in Childs v. Desormeaux (2006) has indicated that if a host has done something to heighten the risk of a guest’s negligent actions behind the wheel, the host may owe a duty of care to the injured party.

Some measures you can take to minimize these risks:

don’t serve alcohol at all

serve guests directly to monitor (and, if necessary, limit) their consumption

don’t promote excessive drinking in your home

don’t permit underage drinking or ready access to alcohol by minors

establish an end-time for the party (when alcohol is put away)

provide non-alcoholic drink options

serve plenty of food

offer pre-paid taxi services or taxi chits

take keys from intoxicated guests should they indicate they’re going to drive

offer your guests a place to sleep

If you keep these things in mind and take the appropriate precautions, you should only be liable to have a great time at your party this holiday season!