Bar found liable for accident caused by drunk customer


In reasons for judgment released yesterday, the court in Widdowson v. Rockwell, 2017 BCSC 385, found the owners of the Cambie Pub in Vancouver 25% at fault for a car accident caused by a drunk customer.  The defendant in Widdowson was a sheet metal worker who went to the Cambie Pub after work with colleagues and got completely pissed.  The Pub staff knew the defendant was drunk and did nothing to stop him from driving.  After leaving the bar the defendant drove to Coquitlam along with a co-worker.  The interesting twist in the case was that the accident happened after the defendant had already arrived at home.  While he had got home safe, about thirty minutes later he got back in his car to drive his colleague home.  The accident then occurred.  In finding the Pub 25% liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff, Mr. Justice Kent said the following:

[74]         While the standard of care expected of a commercial host will, in large part, be governed by the particular circumstances of any given case, there are several general standards of conduct that could well apply simply as a matter of common sense, including:

  • Ensure there are adequate supervision, monitoring and training systems in place so employees know and abide by responsible serving practices;
  • Ensure there is a sufficient number of serving staff on duty so that effective monitoring of alcohol consumption by patrons is possible;
  • Ensure employees know the signs of intoxication and the various factors that influence intoxication (gender, weight, rate of consumption, food, et cetera);
  • Inquire if the patron is driving and identify any “designated driver” for groups of patrons;
  • Know how to estimate blood-alcohol concentrations and ensure any driver does not consume more than the appropriate number of drinks to stay on the “right side” of the legal limit;
  • Display “tent cards” on tables, posters on walls and washrooms, and menu inserts with easy-to-read charts and information about blood-alcohol concentration;
  • Ask apparently-intoxicated patrons if you contact anyone to assist them or if you can get them a taxi and, if necessary, offer to pay for it;
  • Display posters advertising free ride-home services available in the neighbourhood; and
  • If the patron rejects alternative options and insists on driving, despite being urged otherwise, contact the police to seek assistance and/or provide whatever information might encourage their intervention.

[75]         None of these things occurred in the present case.  Rather, the pub’s employees utterly failed in abiding by their own employer’s directive that “intoxicated persons (e.g., Rockwell) must not be permitted to drive”.  I have no hesitation in concluding that the employees, and therefore Cambie Malone’s, did not meet the requisite standard of care in the circumstances of this particular case and that their conduct was accordingly negligent.

The full decision can be found here:


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