A seemingly common decision to drive while intoxicated can have irreversible consequences, not just to the perpetrator, but to those surrounding them as well. Such was the case of Hunt v. Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc.
Mid December of 1994, Ontarian Linda Hunt was working as a part-time receptionist at the Sutton Group. On the day in question, there was a work related party that was being held in the afternoon during the latter part of the work day. She was still executing her work duties but also partaking in the alcohol drinking festivities. One of her bosses noted her behavior and mentioned to her that he would have to call her husband to drive her home if she kept drinking.
After leaving the function at the office, she headed to a pub (P.J’s Pub) with four friends where she had a meal and continued to drink. During that time, there was freezing rain which turned into snow and the weather conditions were of concern to one of the people present in the group.
Ms. Hunt left the bar and on her way home lost control of the vehicle she was driving. She hit another vehicle head first and sustained some serious injuries which included severe brain damage. The physical side effects of the accident proved to be long-term and she filed suit for damages against her employer and the owner of the pub where she was drinking.
Before the accident, the plaintiff was a healthy, functioning forty-four year old mother of two.
Certain factors had to be assessed by the Judge in order to rule on the matter.
- Did the plaintiff’s employer fail in a duty of care* for her safety?
- If the Sutton Group is to be held responsible, what should have been expected from them and did they do it?
- Was the accident a direct product of the Sutton Group’s action/inaction?
- What responsibility lies with the pub owner?
- Did the plaintiff bear any responsibility for her injuries?
The presiding Judge found that Sutton did owe a degree of care to its employee. He saw that it was well within their realm of responsibility and that it was foreseeable that the accident could have happened given her state of intoxication. The company failed to provide the care and foresight needed to protect their employee. This case was not seen as a social hosting event because the plaintiff was being paid to work that day.
The Judge also found that the co-defendant (the owner of the pub) had a responsibility as a commercial host to its customer. Preventative steps and measures could have easily been taken to avoid the risk of her driving home ending in tragedy.
The plaintiff herself was found negligent as she willingly over-indulged in the consumption of alcohol. The Judge found that she ignored the probable ramifications of her decision to drive impaired and should have foreseen the probability of the accident under the circumstances.
Ms. Hunt was awarded twenty five percent of her calculated damages and her employer and owner of the bar were found jointly negligent and ordered to pay about three hundred thousand dollars to the plaintiff.
In such situations, it is advisable to err on the side of caution; everyone should take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves and others who are in their care from potential injury.
If you have been injured in an accident, call Rastin & Associates for a free initial consultation.
*Duty of care as defined by law is the responsibility of safeguarding individuals from harm while in your care.