This piece came in over the weekend, and the interesting part is that an earlier msg in my office email contains a rather internal memo on the same subject:

Liability for Serving Liquor to Employees During a Holiday Party
If you're planning to host a holiday party for your employees and serve alcohol at the affair, here's something to think about. If an employee drinks too much, gets behind the wheel of a car and is involved in an accident, you can be liable to the employee or any third person injured. If you want to look up the cases holding employers liable for serving alcohol to their employees, see:

Jacobsen v. Nike Canada Ltd. , [1996] B.C.J. No. 363 (BC). (Supervisor brings a cooler of beer to a crew. A crew member gets visibly drunk but nobody tries to prevent him from driving home. On his way home, he drives into a ditch and becomes a quadriplegic. The BC Supreme Court finds the company 75 percent responsible and orders it to pay the crew member $2.7 million in damages.)

Hunt v. Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc. , (2001) O.R. (3d) 425 (ON) (A real estate agent drinks too much wine at the company's holiday party. Representatives of the company try to persuade her not to drive but she insists. She gets into an accident. The company is held 25 percent responsible. The Ontario Court of Appeals later reverses the decision on a technicality but doesn't disturb the finding regarding the company's responsibility for preventing the employee from driving.)
What can you do to avoid liability? The first thing is not to serve alcohol. But if you do, take three steps:

Keep an eye on how much your guests drink
Make reasonable assumptions about whether they're intoxicated
If you think they are intoxicated, make a determined effort to keep them from driving


If you would like more details about liability for serving alcohol and how to guard against it, see an article entitled "What's Your Liability for Serving Alcohol to Workers at the Holiday Party?," which is published on the front page of the December issue of a newsletter called Safety Compliance Insider, published by Bongarde Media (www.safetysmart.com).