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Article by Gabriele Lashly: "No More Company Holiday Parties?"

Say a company decides to serve alcohol at its holiday party and an employee gets drunk, leaves the party and then gets into a car accident. Can the employer be held liable for that accident? This is an issue that was discussed by Ventura Business Attorney Gabriele Lashly in her article that was recently included in CITATIONS, a magazine that is published on a monthly basis by the Ventura County Bar Association. Her article, "No More Company Holiday Parties?", was published on p. 11 of the December 2013 issue of CITATIONS.

In the article, Attorney Lashly focused on Purton v. Marriott International, Inc. (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 499. She explained that this appellate case is noteworthy because it has expanded the potential liability of employers in the types of situations described above. Prior to this Court of Appeal ruling, California employers generally enjoyed a certain level of immunity when it came to the actions of employees who had too much to drink at company parties. This is because California has laws that protect social hosts from being held liable in civil court simply because they provided alcohol to their guests (unless those guests are minors). Purton v. Marriott International, Inc., however, took employer liability in these types of cases to a whole other level, according to Attorney Lashly's article.

Here are the details of the case, as explained in the CITATIONS article: Marriott was sued after one of its employees got drunk at the hotel's holiday party, drove to his own home, left that location to drive a coworker home and then got into a car accident that killed the other motorist. While Marriott was able to get the wrongful death claim dismissed in trial court through summary judgment, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision. The Court of Appeal ruled that the employer could potentially be held liable because of the fact that a holiday party can be considered as being within the scope of one's employment. The court made this ruling despite the fact that the accident occurred after the employee had already arrived home safely—which typically would have been considered an end point of the employer's liability.

Attorney Lashly, who is a certified specialist in appellate law, is one of the competent litigators on our legal team at Slaughter & Reagan, LLP. She is also a legal professional who has been nominated by the American Society of Legal Advocates for two years in a row as one of California's Top 100 Appellate Lawyers. Contact our firm to learn more about Attorney Lashly or about the legal services we offer! Our firm's attorneys leverage about 130 years of combined legal experience.