Personal injury at a work party or motor vehicle accidents following holiday parties. Now that the holidays are upon us it’s important to take note as to some of the law surrounding injuries following parties and other social events. First and foremost don’t drink and drive and don’t text and drive. As they say, the life you save may be your own. This discussion will talk about two scenarios: 1.) if you are injured at or a result from a work party, or 2.) if you are injured by someone who is leaving a work party.
Generally if someone suffers a personal injury at work during their work time while doing their work they are considered in the course of their employment. Whether an employee is in the course of their employment while engaged in recreation or an employer-sponsored party or similar social function comes up frequently this time of year. If the recreation or amusement is undertaken on the premises and constitutes only an innocent departure from the regular course work, then the continuity of work hasn’t been broken and such injury resulting from that activity should be covered. Thus in 1988 the Commonwealth Court in the “Kiss of Death” case found an employee who gave his coworker an innocent kiss at the latter’s maternity-leave party, on the employers’ premises, and who then promptly succumbed to a fatal disease from the kiss was considered in the course of their employment.
Attendance at employer-sponsored parties and similar social functions bolster employee morale, relationships and commitment. And let’s face it partying with your co-workers is sometimes fun but sometimes injuries result. Thus injuries sustained as a result of employer sponsored events are activities usually held in the course of employment and thus instances where the courts have awarded Workers’ Compensation as the injured employee’s work activities are seen as furthering the affairs of the employer.
One of the leading cases in Pennsylvania is one where someone drowned while attending an employer sponsored picnic at a public recreation area. The picnic was voluntary but was organized, advertised and paid for by the employer. The purpose was to promote good relationships with employees. The court held that those efforts coupled with employers other actions rendered the employees activities at the picnic as furthering the business interests of the employer and Workmens Compensation benefits was awarded.
Of course what happens to someone not at the event but who is injured by someone who leaves drunk and drives and injures them. In other words what if you are hit and injured by a drunk driver leaving the party. Under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act a business is legally responsible for the actions of an individual that they continue to give alcohol to even though visibly intoxicated. An employee or ‘agent’ of the business serves alcohol to someone at the time who is visibly intoxicated. And the business or hosts decision to serve alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person let to the injuries. Thus the business can be found partially responsible for the actions of the drunk employee who drives and injures you.