This recent appellate court decision addresses the issue of an employee getting drunk at an office Christmas party, driving home, and then injuring someone. In this case, Purton vs. Marriott, an employee attended a Christmas party put on by Marriott, the employer. Two drink tickets were provided, and they were to serve only beer and wine. The driver had some whiskey at home, attended the party, and the bartender at the party also provided some whiskey to the driver. Eventually the driver left for home. It was disputed as to who drove. Apparently the driver eventually arrived at his home, and then left, and when he did, he got in an accident, and killed the plaintiff.
At the trial level, Marriott filed a motion for summary judgment, which says that as a matter of law, Marriott is not liable. This is done before the case gets to a trial. This motion was granted, and an appeal followed. At the appellate level, the court reversed the decision, and said that as a matter of law, the lower court was incorrect.
The appellate court addressed the following issues which they felt were relevant to the issue of Marriott’s liability. The party was for the benefit of the employer. There was alcohol consumed, and this was done during the party, and therefore the intoxication was considered to have occurred within the course and scope of the employment at the Marriott. The fact that the accident took place off the premises is not the determinative fact, but rather, where did the conduct (the drinking/intoxication) occur that was the “proximate” cause of the accident. Since the drinking occurred at the party, then the employer could be held responsible for the tort committed by the employee who got in the accident.
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