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Companies may be liable for drunken employees' negligence

If you need a reason to go easy on the alcohol at your company's holiday party this year, consider the tragic circumstances in the below story. It also paints a picture of how the burden of negligence can be shared by multiple defendants when an innocent person dies or gets injured due to a drunken driver.

Back in 2009, a Marriott hotel in another state held its annual holiday party for management staff and other employees. Upper management planned for each staff member to receive two drink tickets to avoid overindulgence of the beer and wine they would be serving.

However, one of the hotel's bartenders who was not working on the day of the party drank a beer and a shot of Jack Daniel's prior to his arrival. He also smuggled in a flask of whiskey.

As the party got underway, the general manager of the hotel's restaurant broke out a bottle of Jack Daniel's from the liquor supply. The bartender refilled his own flask at least one time from this bottle.

How the bartender got home remains in question. What is not in dispute is that at some point after safely arriving home, he made the poor decision to head back out to drive a drunken co-worker home. He never made it.

He wound up striking the rear of a vehicle while doing 100 mph. The physician behind the wheel was killed. The bartender's blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the fatal drunk driving accident was .16 — twice the legal limit for driving.

The parents of the deceased doctor filed suit against the driver, as well as the Mariott, for the wrongful death of their son. While the hotel initially won a summary judgment to have the corporation dismissed from the suit, this was ultimately overturned on appeal and plaintiffs were able to recover significant damages from the defendant.

If you or a family member are injured (or worse) due to a drunken driver's negligence, your Houston personal injury attorney may be able to identify additional defendants, some of which may have far deeper pockets than the individual behind the wheel.

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 3 Convenient Locations:

Bellaire Office
Frost Bank Building, 6750 West Loop South, Suite 800
Bellaire, TX 77401

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