It’s that time of year: holiday celebrations and work parties galore – a time for you and your employees who have worked so hard to have a bit of fun and let loose. And they deserve it – the holidays can be frantic no matter what industry you’re in. But understand that supplying your employees with a bit of eggnog and other alcoholic beverages may come with some added consequences.
Take, for example, an unfortunately common scenario that played out in December 2009. A Marriott hotel employee, Michael Landri, having had a few too many whiskey drinks the night of a holiday party, ended up operating a motor vehicle that resulted in him rear-ending an innocent motorist. With a blood alcohol level of .16 (roughly double that of most states’ legal limit), Landri pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter.
This sad story has sparked big and small business owners alike to take a hard look at their holiday party practices in order to better protect themselves from potential litigation. While Landri was clearly at fault for the situation (and not working the day of the party) Marriott was still liable for the damage caused in the accident because it allowed Landri to leave in a clearly inebriated state.
How Can You Prevent Liquor Liability Lawsuits?
The answer to this question is not to let fear dictate the amount of fun you and your employees have this holiday season, but rather to be cognizant of the steps you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly by conducting your holiday party in a safe, but fun, way. For some basic information on Liquor Liability lawsuits, check out the post “5 Questions to Ask About Liquor Liability Coverage.”
- Have trained bartenders serve your guests. It might be a fun idea to invite a family member, friend of your business, or associate to come with a Santa’s hat and pour your employees drinks, but it’s best to hire a trained professional. For one, trained bartenders know the signs of inebriation and have practice in telling drunk patrons when they’ve had too much. This is important when you’re concerned about limiting the potential for your employees to leave and get into a serious accident. Plus, when you hire out liquor service, you disperse your firm’s potential liability if anything should go wrong.
- Hire a shuttle. Seems simple, right? When looking at the Marriott situation we at the insureon blog asked ourselves, “Why didn’t the hotel offer a shuttle for their employees?” Or offer those who couldn’t drive a room for the night? It might take a bit out of your pocketbook, but providing quick rides for intoxicated employees is not only kind, but financially savvy. Remember: preventing liquor liability suits can both protect your employees and other motorists and protect your bottom line.
- Know when to call it quits. We all get caught up on the holiday hubbub and don’t want the party to end – but if you see things getting a little rowdy with talks of taking things to a new location, make sure you assert yourself as the person in charge. It may make you feel like the “party pooper,” but someone has to know when things have gone on too long and are starting to veer into dangerous territory. This means ending the party at the designated time and making sure everyone who came has reliable transportation (should you opt to not offer a shuttle for your employees).
- Limit common alcohol-related injuries. Drunk driving isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when inviting employees and their friends and spouses to celebrate the holidays on your premises – injuries are also unfortunately common. You may have allowed your employees to bring friends and spouses along in hopes of adding to the number of potential designated drivers, but you also added possibilities for liability suits. If someone drops their drink, make sure the area is cordoned off and cleaned up quickly. If you see someone get up on a rickety chair or table while singing the words to their favorite Shania Twain song, go ahead and “be that person” who reminds them it’s unsafe. The last thing you want is a costly slip, trip, or fall to ruin everyone’s night.
- Carry Liquor Liability Insurance. Liquor Liability Insurance is likely included as part of your General Liability Insurance policy. If you’re not sure whether it’s in your policy, contact your agent right away. We can get you additional information on the benefits of Liquor Liability Insurance as well as the proper coverage for General Liability Insurance.
Interested in learning more? Check out a blog post “Liquor Liability Lessons from the Hangover Trilogy.”