How holiday parties can result in personal injury lawsuits

The holidays are just around the corner, which means that it’s officially the season to celebrate. Although this is one of the most fun and exciting times of the year, holiday parties are often the source of personal injury lawsuits.

This season, many businesses around Massachusetts and the rest of the country will throw their annual holiday parties, but the celebrating can be cut short if serious accidents or mistreatments result.

According to a recent news report, alcohol served at company parties has a way of creating quite a liability for businesses. Sometimes it’s a co-worker who has had too much to drink and makes an unwanted pass at another co-worker. Other times, it’s an employee who drinks and then gets into a car accident.

The bottom line is that a company can be held liable in both of these situations and more. This is especially true since many states, including Massachusetts, have adopted dram shop laws that can hold bars and party hosts responsible for the negligent actions of their drunken guests.

Here are some tips for businesses from the news report on how to avoid these alcohol-related incidents and the liability that can follow:

  • Remember, business insurance likely won’t cover incidents related to drunkenness or sexual harassment. Check out event insurance for the most protection.
  • Know that workers compensation probably won’t cover injuries sustained at a company party, whether or not alcohol was a factor.
  • People should be warned not to drink too much and to remember it is a work function prior to the party.
  • Consider throwing an alcohol-free party, or only serve alcohol only for the first hour of a party. This will help prevent people from getting too out of control.
  • Offer only wine and beer instead of hard liquor. Hard liquor makes it easy to get very intoxicated in a short amount of time.
  • Employ a bartender who isn’t afraid to cut people off when they are obviously intoxicated. This is where dram shop liability comes in.

Follow these tips for safe and fun holiday celebrating.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Holidays can bring legal problems for businesses,” Joyce M. Rosenberg, Nov. 17, 2011.