Parties and Employers Liability

Are you planning a party or have already planned one for your workforce? Chances are you will probably be serving alcohol to your employees, but like the home owner and licence establishments you have many liabilities. Many companies don’t realize that they can be liable for injuries caused by employees who drive drunk after an office party. Even companies that know the risks don’t fully understand the exact nature of their potential liability and how to manage it.

Host liability is the employers obligation to protect its employees from drinking and driving. If you suspect an employee or guest of being impaired, you must make an effort to prevent him from getting behind the wheel and driving or operating a motorized vehicle.

A famous Canadian commercial liability Court case worth mentioning is The Jacobsen vs. Nike Canada case, where a supervisor brought a full cooler of beer to a crew erecting a trade show display on a hot day. A crew member got noticeably drunk and drove into a ditch on the way home. As a result, he became a quadriplegic. The Court found Nike Canada 75 % responsible and ordered them to pay the victim $2.7 million in damages. The court said that the employer in this case supplied the beer; the supervisor also knew the victim was drunk but didn’t try to stop him from driving home.

The second case involved a company in Ontario called Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc. that was held 25% liable involving injuries caused by an employee who got into an accident after drinking wine at the company Christmas party. The party broke up, in very bad weather conditions, Hunt got into her car to drive home. Tragically she lost control of her car and collided with an oncoming vehicle, resulting in severe permanent injuries. Hunt through her litigation guardian, sued her employer and the bar. The trial judge awarded Hunt $281,229.

At trial, the court determined the employer was liable for the damages (a new trial was ordered on appeal, but the appeal court did not dismiss the contention that the employer might be liable for the employee’s injuries).

These cases suggest that an employer will have some responsibility to look out for their employees when they host a party.

To avoid liability contact us today at Ontario Designated Drivers Inc to hear about the ways in which we can help you ensure that your employees get home safe from your next holiday party, picnic or other company affairs during the year.