Liability of Employer As “Social Host”

There have been a number of cases in the recent past where Employers have been held liable for injuries sustained by employees during and after social events sponsored by employers.

Most of us can understand the imposition of liability where the employer has provided a substantial amount of alcohol and not made arrangements for safe transportation home at the conclusion of the company sponsored event.  But how far should that extend?

Some cases have imposed liability even where employees have left the office function and gone on to drink and continue the party elsewhere.  Where do you draw the line?

The British Columbia Court of Appeal, in the context of a dispute between an individual defendant and his insurer, has recently provided some guidance for employers and employees alike.

The judge speaking for the Court in this case  stated:

Of course, all the contextual factors must be considered ‒ in this case, who was in attendance, where the incident took place, whether business was being discussed, time and place, the likelihood of benefit to the firm, etc. Although I agree that the associates’ dinner on the evening of April 5, 2001 was probably a function that could be said to be “in respect of” employment, in my view the line was crossed when some of those attending the dinner decided to go to the nightclub. This visit seems to me to be almost indistinguishable from the more common situation of a few associates going out for a drink together after work and one of them being injured in a bar. The social aspects of the occasion by far outweighed the very tenuous “connection” between going to Bar None and the employment of Mr. Poole and Ms. Danicek by AHBL.

Best bet?  Make arrangements for safe transportation home at the end of the office function.