Lawsuit Settles for $2M after Claims that Employer Allowed Drunk Employee to Drive
This case involves two employees who were injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by one employee who was drunk at the time of the accident. The passenger in the vehicle filed a claim on her employer’s general liability policy after suffering traumatic brain injuries in the accident.
On the day of the accident, both employees had drinks while they were working and decided to go to a party after their shift had completed. Neither was on the clock at the time of the accident. The driver, who was legally drunk at the time of the accident, struck a tree with his vehicle shortly before midnight.
The injured passenger filed a lawsuit contending that drinking on the job was common at the restaurant, the restaurant provided the alcohol on which the driver got drunk, the driver was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occurred, and the driver was using a company vehicle at the time of the accident.
Elements of negligence
In the aforementioned accident, the passenger sued her employer for allowing the employee to get drunk on the job and then use a company vehicle to attend a party. The case settled for the policy limit of $2 million. However, it is rare that a lawsuit like this moves forward. California law generally shields bars and restaurants from accidents resulting from the conduct of a drunk driver. However, in this case, the defendant was an employee of the bar at the time of the accident and he was using a company vehicle. Generally speaking, the owner of a vehicle is responsible for any accidents that occur regardless of the driver. The theory of liability that gives rise to this scenario is known as negligent entrustment.
California’s dram shop liability law
Dram shop liability is when a bar, restaurant, or liquor store serves alcohol to an individual. Can they be held responsible for a drunk driving accident that occurs? The answer is generally, no. California treats drunk driving as a willful act on behalf of the driver and not the “dram shop” that served them. For this reason, the vast majority of lawsuits against dram shops are dismissed or won’t even be taken by personal injury attorneys.
There are only two exceptions to this rule and both of them involve minors. If a dram shop serves alcohol to an individual they know is a minor and this individual causes a traffic accident, they can be sued. The same is true for parents who supply liquor to minors at their home. In these cases, the party that supplied the liquor to the minor can be sued. However, the plaintiff must prove that the individual who provided the liquor knew that the individual to whom the liquor was provided was a minor.
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The Oakland, CA personal injury attorneys at Venardi Zurada represent the interests of those injured due to another person’s negligence. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation, and we can begin discussing your claim right away.