Is employer liable for employee who becomes drunk at a holiday party?

With the holidays around the corner there will be a lot of annual company holiday parties.
What this means is employers need to weigh the risks of serving alcohol to their employees at their company sponsored event.

Under California law, an employer may be vicariously held liable for the torts committed by an employee within the scope of employment even after the employee returns home.

A ruling from the California appellate court held that employers may be held liable for deaths or injuries resulting from alcohol consumed at an employer-hosted party, even if the injury occurs after the employee has safely arrived home. In the case Purton v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., 2013 WL 3942979 (Cal. App. 4 Dist. July 31, 2013) Landri, an employee at the Marriott, and several others left the party.  About 20 minutes after he arrived home, Landri decided to drive a drunk co-worker home. Landri was driving 100 mph with a blood alcohol level of .16 when he struck a vehicle driven by a doctor, killing him.

The case makes it clear that a California employer bears vicarious liability for the foreseeable acts of it’s intoxicated employees if the alcohol consumption:

• occurred with the employer’s permission,
• was of some benefit to the employer,
• was a customary incident of the employment relationship.

This decision is important to victims injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver. Many California drunk drivers have little or no insurance which leaves victims with no where to turn to obtain the compensation they deserve.  This case holds that an employer who condones drinking at job functions may be financially responsible if their employee injures another person even after they leave the company event.  If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can investigate whether the drunk driver was attending a company event before the accident occurred.  The Attorneys at the Edward A Smith Law Offices have over 30 years of experience handling cases involving drunk drivers.  Contact the Edward A Smith Law Offices at 916-921-6400 or toll free at 800-404-5400, for a free case evaluation.

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