Employers can be held liable for drunk driving accidents that occur after work, if they provided the alcohol.
In general, employers have liability for car accidents caused by their employees only when those accidents occur within the scope of employment. This is true regardless of whether the employee had been drinking or simply made a driving error that resulted in an accident.
However, there are certain exceptions to this rule that can allow employers in California to be held liable when their employees are drunk and cause an accident.
Example Case: The Holiday Party
In the recent case Purton v. Marriott International, the California Court of Appeals demonstrated how employers may be liable if their employees drive drunk.
The case involved an employee of the hotel who caused an accident after drinking at the company’s holiday party.
The holiday party was held every year to thank the employees, and some amount of drinking was expected. The management of the hotel determined that each guest would get two drink tickets and only beer and wine would be served.
The employee didn’t work on the day of the party. Before they went to the party they drank a beer and a shot of whiskey. The employee also took a flask of additional alcohol to the party. Sometime during the party, the hotel management brought a bottle of whiskey to the bar and the employee filled their flask at least one time.
The employee left the party and drove home. Soon after arriving home, they got back in the car and drove an inebriated co-worker home. The employee was driving in excess of 100 mph when they hit another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, Mr. Parton, died as a result of the accident.
Does the Employer Have Any Liability?
In most cases, the employer would only be liable for drunk driving accidents that occur within the scope of employment. This is called “respondeat superior.”
In this case, Marriott argued that they shouldn’t be liable because the accident didn’t occur within the “scope of employment” of the employee. The hotel argued that when the employee left his home after returning from the party, it was unrelated to work, and therefore the hotel shouldn’t be held responsible for the victim’s injuries.
The Court of Appeals found that the hotel could be found liable for the injuries caused to Mr. Purton because the actual and legal causes of the injuries to Mr. Purton were due to the employee’s drinking. Because the alcohol was consumed at a work party, the court found that the employer could be held liable.
Need Help Proving Liability in a Car Accident Case?
If you are injured by a drunk, reckless, speeding, or distracted driver, you should hire a qualified car accident injury attorney who can investigate your case to prove who is liable and how much compensation you deserve. For a free initial consultation regarding your case, contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000.