Search This Blog

Friday, September 6, 2013

Purton v. Marriott International: Court Holds Employer Liable For Death Caused By Employee Who Got Drunk At Employer Party

A quick note on an interesting case dealing with respondeat superior liability: Purton v. Marriott International, Inc. (7/31/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---.
In this case, an employee consumed alcoholic beverages at an employer hosted party and became intoxicated. The employee arrived home safely, but then left to drive a coworker home. During that drive, the employee struck another car, killing its driver.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the employer on the ground the employer's potential liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior ended when the employee arrived home.  
We hold that an employer may be found liable for its employee's torts as long as the proximate cause of the injury (here, alcohol consumption) occurred within the scope of employment. It is irrelevant that foreseeable effects of the employee's negligent conduct (here, the car accident) occurred at a time the employee was no longer acting within the scope of his or her employment. We also hold that no legal justification exists for terminating the employer's liability as a matter of law simply because the employee arrived home safely from the employer hosted party. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in favor of the employer. 
Slip op. at 1-2. 

The Court held that a reasonable trier of fact could find that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment when he became intoxicated at the party because: the employer served alcohol at and allowed the employee to bring his own alcohol to the party; the party and the drinking of alcohol at the party benefitted the employer by improving employee morale and furthering employer-employee relations; and the drinking of alcohol by employees was "a customary incident to the employment relationship." Slip op. at 12-18.

The opinion is available here

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.