May 10, 2019
One teen is dead after a shooting at an after-prom party held at an Airbnb rental north of Toronto. It’s a tragedy that raises legal questions around social host liability, occupiers liability, and civic responsibility. In this case, arrests were made for the murder, but there were hundreds of party-goers, at least some of whom would have been potential witnesses, who fled the scene before paramedics and police arrived. It is unclear whether anyone tried to help the victim, but what is clear is that no one stuck around to help the authorities.
Bill Dick, Q.C. is familiar with the uncertainty around social host liability questions when accidents or injuries occur on site. When asked for comment, on the tragedy, Bill confirmed this is absolutely the worst case scenario. He highlighted the fact that there is almost no case law on liability for injuries that occur in properties rented for parties via Airbnb or similar organizations. The law is still evolving to regulate these types of entities. Generally speaking, the courts are clear that property owners owe a ‘duty of care’ to minors who come to harm on their grounds. In this case, Bill noted that Airbnb does vet renters, which may insulate homeowners from liability in the sense that if they don’t know there are minors on the property they can’t be responsible. However, as Bill points out, “the real issue is how much vetting does Airbnb do?” And, if that vetting is found to fall below a reasonable standard of care, are the property owners still entitled to rely on Airbnb to avoid liability? These are questions that are currently unanswered in Canadian law.
As we head into grad season, it’s worth revisiting the issues around social host liability and having a candid discussion with your grads.
For issues to consider before you decide to host a grad party, read our earlier post on Grad Party Liability.