June 4, 2018

Parties at the Cottage? They have issues….

‘Tis the season.

Of cocktails on the dock and long leisurely swims, of a good book, a Muskoka chair and a lazy afternoon, of the sun setting over the lake, of good friends loving the north country together. Such is cottage life.

Until you introduce the factor of the older teenager/young (not-so-adult) adult who knows in their bones that the best place in the word to party is the cottage. With no parents in attendance.

I wish that I didn’t know what goes on at those parties. But you can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle, and I’ve heard too many stories. Most of them not good.     Almost all of them involve way too much alcohol and drugs.

Kids do shots. Los of shots. They get blotto on the ugly combination of too much hard liquor and too much weed. Don’t ask them about it because they lie to their parents. It’s in the adolescent DNA to withhold info about things they know will distress their parents. We lied to our parents too, once upon a time.

None of this would be such a big problem if their judgment (not so great at the best of times) were not so badly impaired by substances. Bad things can happen. Bad things that are particular to the cottage in the summer. They can trash the cottage. They can go swimming drunk and someday can get hurt. Badly hurt. Waterskiing or wake-boarding. Driving the boat carelessly or drunk. Again, somebody can get hurt.

This is a heart-breaking possibility, and it gets worse.

As parents, we need to understand social host liability. The law says that if we serve alcohol, or allow it to be served in our home, we are literally liable for the consequences. In a 2017 case the Ontario Superior Court upheld host liability when a 19-year-old who got drunk at a house party was in a car accident and became a quadriplegic. In plain English, that means the homeowners were sued and lost a lot of money. Even though they did not give him the alcohol.

Step 1 to protect yourself re host liability is to buy a lot of host liability insurance.

Same deal if somebody who doesn’t have their PCOC card gets caught driving your motorboat…. Even worse if somebody gets hurt. The Ministry of Transport is increasingly present on our lakes and they look for trouble like that. Or what if a drunk couple hooks up and then the young woman’s parents sue for lack of consent, because the Criminal Code says consent cannot lawfully be given if one is impaired? If she’s under 18, she’s more vulnerable and of course it’s even worse. You think they’re not going to sue you, if they’re of a suing mind?

Bottom line: Simple: Be there.

It is both annoying and exhausting to be present when young folks are partying. They are loud, inconsiderate and they party till 3. You can hide in your bedroom and watch movies, and do a round of the party every 45 minutes. Your presence will have a moderating affect on their high-jinks. I personally would take the car-keys of everyone there with a car, and promise to release them the next morning when they’re sober. They won’t like that, but would they rather become, or cause a friend to become, quadriplegic?

On another note, which may seem trivial today, but could comeback to bite you: If you rent your cottage, you may not have the same kind of coverage or liability protection that owners have. That insurance may be restricted to the owner only, which means if someone gets hurt you’re going to get sued and not have insurance. Something else that can come back to haunt you is how far sound travels over water, much farther than it does over land. A noisy party may irk your neighbours on the lake. If they call the police and the police find under-age drinkers on your property, there could be legal trouble for you.

All of which speaks to being there. If you are there, they will do fewer stupid things. They can still have their party. It won’t be quite as exciting, but everyone will be safer. You can take a nap the next day, and glory in the knowledge that you prevented something truly awful from happening – to them and to you.


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