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Massachusetts Employers Not Responsible for Drunk Worker, Court Says

In a case handed down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Court took employers off the hook for the responsibility of their employees while off site. Essentially, the Court said that in the “comings and goings” of an employee, the employer is not responsible. We see many such cases: there is insufficient motor vehicle insurance, so the injured party needs to file a claim against third parties. The case involved a pedestrian injured by a driver who had been drinking with his boss prior to driving home. The driver was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

In this case, Lev verses Beverly Enterprises, the employee, Ahern, and his boss were having drinks, discussing work. After having approximately two drinks, Ahern left the bar to drive home. Unfortunately, Ahern’s motor vehicle struck Mr. Lev as he was crossing a street – suffering two broken legs and other serious injuries. The plaintiff, Lev, alleged that Ahern was acting within the scope of his employment because it was essentially a work meeting, notwithstanding the fact that it was “off campus” and that, therefore, the company was responsible for Ahern’s negligent driving. Unfortunately for Ahern, the trial judge, Merita Hopkins, sided with the employer and the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed stating that the drive from the bar home was “not an essential part of the employer’s mission.”