Office holiday parties are a great time to enjoy the season with co-workers, but an unexpected accident can ruin everyone’s good time. Unfortunately, accidents happen all the time, and if alcohol is in the mix, it is more likely than not.
Do you know what rights you have if you are injured at an office holiday party? Can you still recover workers’ compensation? Are you entitled to any compensation since you were drinking?
These are all good questions and ones you likely want to know the answers to. At Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A., we take pride in helping our clients understand their rights. Find the answers to the questions above and others here.
The Social Host Liability Statute in Florida
According to the social host liability statute in Florida, a person who furnishes or sells alcoholic beverages to someone who is legally allowed to drink cannot be held liable for damages or injuries caused or resulting from the intoxication of the person. The exception to this is if it is known that the individual being served is a habitual drunk.
According to the Florida Supreme Court, the statute is only designed to limit liability for the providers and vendors of alcohol. As a result, while the statute seems to create a cause of action if you provide alcohol to a known alcoholic or minor, the Florida Supreme Court does not interpret it this way.
The Dowel v. Gracewood Fruit Co. case shows the court’s view on this matter.
In this case, Kimberly Dowell sued the employer (Gracewood Fruit, Co.), stating that the employer should not have served alcohol to a guest who is a known alcoholic at an outing the company sponsored earlier in the day when the accident took place. The Florida Supreme Court entered the ruling that in this situation, the social host was not liable for serving alcohol to a known alcoholic and ruled against Dowell.
Roles of Employers When Serving Alcohol at Office Parties or Events
Employers can still be liable for damages drunk employees cause, even to themselves, if the employer requires that employee (who they know is intoxicated) to drive.
A case that illustrates this case is Bardy v. Walt Disney World, Co.
In this case, it is alleged that Disney hosted a company party where an employee drank 30 16-ounce beers. Once the party ended, the employee went to his car and slept for several hours on Disney property (in the parking lot). When found, a security guard mandated that the employee leave the property, even though the employee stated they were still too intoxicated to drive safely.
In this situation, it was found that Disney may be at-fault for the injuries to the employee unless the security guard believed that the employee could safely and legally drive.
This case serves as a warning to employers who are hosting office parties. They should make sure to prohibit any intoxicated worker from driving home and ensure they don’t require them to drive if they are visibly impaired.
This begs the question – what rights does an employee have if they are injured after attending an office party, drinking, and experiencing an injury?
Can You Recover Workers’ Compensation if Injured at an Office Party?
In some situations, you can still receive workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured during an office work party. This is because this insurance covers any injuries that occur during the course of your employment. However, not all work parties will qualify for this.
If you are trying to determine if your work party occurred during the “course of employment,” it is necessary to consider a few things:
- Was attendance at the party mandatory, and did you receive compensation while there? If you answered yes to this, there is a strong argument that the work party occurred “during the course of employment” and workers’ comp would cover injuries.
- Did the party occur during the business’s normal operating hours or at a different time and location? If the party occurred during usual operating hours for a business, it could be stated that the attendance of workers was expected and that this was a work-related task.
- Who covered the cost of the party? The party who was financially responsible for the party makes a huge difference in if an employer is liable for injuries that occur during the event. If your employer was the host and paid for the party, it is usually considered a work event, and workers’ comp would cover all injuries.
- Did the employer benefit from the party in some way? An example would be if employees were required to interact and talk to clients who attended the party. If so, it is likely considered a work event, which means that workers’ compensation applies to any injuries that occur during the event.
If you experience an injury during an office holiday party and think you have a valid workers’ compensation claim, report the incident immediately. You should also contact Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A.
Our workers compensation lawyers can further investigate the incident to determine liability and help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. We have helped thousands of clients recover from their work-caused injuries. Don’t wait to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.