This is a busy time of year for holiday parties at people’s homes and workplace. It is also a time of year when some people drink more than usual and get into accidents when operating a vehicle while under the influence.
What many homeowners and business owners don’t know is that they are potentially liable for injuries that might occur as a result of an employee or house guest drinking too much and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
A few years ago a local real estate brokerage hosted a holiday office party for its staff. An intoxicated employee was allowed to leave the office party and later suffered a severe brain injury in a car crash while driving intoxicated during a winter storm.
Even though a winter storm was underway the employer provided alcohol and allowed the employee to drive home alone. The severe brain injury left her unable to work for the rest of her life.
In Ontario the law imposes an obligation on drivers to take care for their safety and the safety of the general public when they drive a vehicle. The law also imposes an obligation on employers to take care for the safety of their employees. After a lengthy trial the court awarded damages to the employee and found that although the employee was primarily responsible for her own actions, the employer was partly responsible because it provided alcohol to her and allowed her to drive while intoxicated.
The publicity generated by this case changed the way employers conduct office parties around the country and encouraged business owners and homeowners that host parties to take more care to avoid intoxicated guests taking to the road.
Impaired driving is reckless and dangerous. People who drink must obviously take responsibility for their own actions. However, the law is clear that employers who host parties must ensure that their guests take that responsibility seriously. Under some circumstances homeowner’s may be liable too.