Childs v. Desormeaux (2006), 347 N.R. 328 (SCC)

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Temp. Cite: [2006] N.R. TBEd. MY.007

Zoe Childs, Andrew Childs, Pauline Childs, Heather Lee Childs and Jennifer Christine Childs (appellants) v. Desmond Desormeaux, Julie Zimmerman and Dwight Courrier (respondents) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) and Insurance Bureau of Canada (interveners)

(30472; 2006 SCC 18; 2006 CSC 18)

Indexed As: Childs v. Desormeaux et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish and Abella, JJ.

May 5, 2006.


The issue in this case was whether hosts of a “Bring Your Own Booze” (BYOB) party were partially responsible for injuries caused in a motor vehicle accident by a drunk driver who had attended the party.

The Ontario Superior Court, in a decision reported at [2002] O.T.C. 628, dismissed the action. The plaintiffs appealed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, in a decision reported 187 O.A.C. 111, dismissed the appeal. The court held that on the specific facts of this case the social hosts did not owe a duty of care to users of the road. The plaintiffs appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal.

Torts – Topic 49.35

Negligence – Standard of care – Particular per­sons and relationships – Social hosts – The plaintiff, Childs, was injured when the car in which she was riding was struck by an impaired driver (Desormeaux) – Des­or­meaux, known to be a heavy drinker, had just attended a BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) party at the home of two social hosts – The plaintiff sued the social hosts, claiming that they owed her a duty of care – The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that the action should be dis­missed, hold­ing that no prima facie duty of care was established – The court stated that “… hosting a party at which alcohol is served does not, without more, establish the de­gree of proximity required to give rise to a duty of care on the hosts to third-party highway users who may be injured by an in­toxicated guest. The injury here was not shown to be foreseeable on the facts as found by the trial judge. Even if it had been, this is at best a case of nonfeasance. No duty to monitor guests’ drinking or to prevent them from driving can be imposed having regard to the rel­evant cases and legal principles. A social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest’s actions, unless the host’s conduct impli­cates him or her in the creation or exacer­bation of the risk”.

Torts – Topic 90

Negligence – Duty of care – To intoxicated persons – [See
Torts – Topic 49.35

Torts – Topic 3723

Occupiers’ liability or negligence for dan­gerous premises – Invitees – Duties of oc­cu­pier – Duty to intoxicated, impaired or disabled invitee – [See
Torts – Topic 49.35

Torts – Topic 8915

Duty of care – Particular relationships – Control of conduct of others – Social host -Respecting alcohol consumption by guests – [See
Torts – Topic 49.35

Cases Noticed:

Donoghue v. Stevenson, [1932] A.C. 562; [1932] All E.R. Rep. 1 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 9].

Anns v. Merton London Borough Council, [1978] A.C. 728; [1977] 2 W.L.R. 1024; [1977] 2 All E.R. 492 (H.L.), appld. [para. 11].

Nielsen v. Kamloops (City) and Hughes, [1984] 2 S.C.R. 2; 54 N.R. 1; [1984] 5 W.W.R. 1; 29 C.C.L.T. 97; 8 C.L.R. 1; 10 D.L.R.(4th) 641, refd to. [para. 11].

Odhavji Estate et al. v. Woodhouse et al., [2003] 3 S.C.R. 263; 312 N.R. 305; 180 O.A.C. 201; 2003 SCC 69, refd to. [para. 12].

Cooper v. Registrar of Mortgage Brokers (B.C.) et al., [2001] 3 S.C.R. 537; 277 N.R. 113; 160 B.C.A.C. 268; 261 W.A.C. 268; 2001 SCC 79, refd to. [para. 15].

Cooper v. Hobart – see Cooper v. Regis­trar of Mortgage Brokers (B.C.) et al.

Stewart v. Pettie et al., [1995] 1 S.C.R. 131; 177 N.R. 297; 162 A.R. 241; 83 W.A.C. 241; 25 Alta. L.R.(3d) 297; 8 M.V.R.(3d) 1; [1995] 3 W.W.R. 1; 121 D.L.R.(4th) 222; 23 C.C.L.T.(2d) 89, refd to. [para. 16].

Hendricks v. R., [1970] S.C.R. 237, refd to. [para. 35].

Horsley v. MacLaren, [1972] S.C.R. 441, refd to. [para. 35].

Teno et al. v. Arnold et al., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 287; 19 N.R. 1; 83 D.L.R.(3d) 609; 3 C.C.L.T. 272, refd to. [para. 35].

Crocker v. Sundance Northwest Resorts Ltd., [1988] 1 S.C.R. 1186; 86 N.R. 241; 29 O.A.C. 1; 51 D.L.R.(4th) 321, refd to. [para. 35].

Lambert v. Lastoplex Chemicals Co., [1972] S.C.R. 569, refd to. [para. 35].

Hollis v. Dow Corning Corp. et al., [1995] 4 S.C.R. 634; 190 N.R. 241; 67 B.C.A.C. 1; 111 W.A.C. 1, refd to. [para. 35].

Dzwiwenka v. R., [1972] S.C.R. 419, refd to. [para. 36].

Bain v. Board of Education (Calgary) et al. (1993), 146 A.R. 321 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 36].

Dunn v. Dominion Atlantic Railway Co., [1920] 2 W.W.R. 705; 60 S.C.R. 310, refd to. [para. 37].

Menow v. Jordan House – see Menow v. Hornsberger.

Menow v. Hornsberger, [1974] S.C.R. 239, refd to. [para. 37].

Jane Doe v. Board of Police Commis­sion­ers of Metropolitan Toronto et al. (1998), 60 O.T.C. 321; 39 O.R.(3d) 487 (Gen. Div.), refd to. [para. 37].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Fridman, Gerald Henry Louis, The Law of Torts in Canada (2nd Ed. 2002), p. 320 [para. 31].


Barry D. Laushway, Scott Laushway, Beth Alexander, for the appellants;

No counsel appeared for the respondent, Desmond Desormeaux;

Eric R. Williams and Jaye E. Hooper, for the respondents, Julie Zimmerman and Dwight Courrier;

Kirk F. Stevens, for the intervener, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada);

Alan L.W. D’Silva, Nicholas McHaffie and Vaso Maric, for the intervener, the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Solicitors of Record:

Laushway Law Office, Prescott, Ontario, for the appellants;

Williams McEnery, Ottawa, Ontario, for the respondents, Julie Zimmerman and Dwight Courrier;

Lerners, Toronto, Ontario, for the inter­vener, Mothers Against Drunk Driv­ing (MADD Canada);

Stikeman, Elliott, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Insurance Bureau of Canada.

This appeal was heard on January 18, 2006, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish and Abella, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada. The following decision was delivered by McLach­lin, C.J.C., for the Supreme Court on May 5, 2006, in both official languages.


Childs v. Desormeaux et al.

[2006] 1 SCR 643

Supreme Court of Canada
Reading Time:
21 minutes
Abella, Bastarache, Binnie, Deschamps, Fish, LeBel, McLachlin 

McLachlin, C.J.C.
: A person hosts a party. Guests drink alcohol. An inebriated guest drives away and causes an accident in which another person is injured. Is the host liable to the person injured? I conclude that as a general rule, a social host does not owe a duty of care to a person injured by a guest who has consumed alcohol and that the courts below correctly dismissed the appellants’ action.


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