Injured at an Office Party: What Are Your Legal Options?

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 26, 2014 9:54 AM

Many workers look forward to closing out the year at an office party. But what happens when an office party mishap results in a serious injury?

A Utah man was recently hospitalized following an egg nog chugging contest at his office holiday party, reports The Associated Press. The man reportedly downed an entire quart of non-alcoholic eggnog in 12 seconds. In the process, however, the man inhaled a portion of the egg nog and suffered a lung infection. The infection required three days of hospitalization.

What are the legal options for those injured at an office party?

Social Host Liability

Although it's not clear if the man injured in the egg nog-chugging contest plans to pursue legal action, any time an injury may be caused by another person's failure to act reasonably or lawfully, a personal injury lawsuit may be an option.

In the case of office parties that involve alcohol, some states have social host liability laws that may make party hosts liable for injuries caused when a person is served excessive amounts of alcohol. These laws are similar to the dram shop laws that hold bars and retailers liable for injuries caused by patrons who are overly intoxicated.

In many states, social host liability laws apply only to those who serve minors alcohol. Some states also have specific limitations as to the types of injuries that may be covered by the social host liability law, such as the New Jersey statute which makes social hosts liable for injuries that "are the result of negligent operation of a vehicle by a guest" who is visibly intoxicated.

Premises Liability

When injuries are caused by a dangerous condition in the building or property where the party is being held, premises liability may make the owner or possessor of that property liable for those injuries.

Although laws vary by state, premises liability is generally applicable when the owner or possessor of a property fails to reasonably maintain the safety of his or her property or failed to properly warn about known dangers on the property. The level of care required by the owner or possessor of property may depend on the laws in your state, as well as the legal status of the injured person. For example, those on the premises for business reasons may be owed a higher legal duty than those on the premises for social purposes

Learn more about recovering financially for your injuries at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Accident and Injury Law.

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