Court Limits Employer’s Duty in Recent Case Stemming from Pedestrian-Railroad Fatality

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida pedestrian accident case involving the duty a defendant employer owes to a plaintiff employee. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the outer limits of an employer’s duty to protect an employee. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant employer owed no duty to the employee, and thus, could not be held liable for her death.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for the defendant employer, a financial services firm. The defendant maintained a bar on-site to encourage employees to socialize and stay at work longer than they may otherwise have chosen to. One day, the plaintiff visited the defendant’s bar after work. After a few drinks, the plaintiff began to get agitated at other employees, and she was eventually told to leave and subsequently escorted out. Her access into the building was revoked.

The plaintiff then began to walk toward her home, which was ten miles away. She was walking along a set of railroad tracks when she was struck by an oncoming train. She was killed instantly.

The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant employer, claiming that it was negligent in providing the plaintiff alcohol, then escorting her out without assistance. The plaintiff estate claimed that it was foreseeable the decedent would have been struck by a train or been injured in some similar accident. The plaintiff estate also claimed that the decedent’s employer knew she was an alcoholic because she was required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The Court’s Opinion

The court rejected the plaintiff’s case and dismissed the claim against the employer. The court explained that, in Florida, only a vendor of alcohol can be liable for subsequent injuries caused by a customer’s intoxication. Here, the court explained, the defendant was not selling drinks at the bar, but was giving them away for free.

The plaintiff estate argued that, notwithstanding the lack of social-host liability, the employer was liable based on a string of cases in which an employer was found to be liable for an employee’s injuries while the employee was drinking during the performance of work-related duties. However, the court distinguished these cases based on the fact that in this case, the plaintiff was not forced to consume the alcohol and was not in the performance of any work-related duty at the time she was drinking.

The court noted that only one case has upheld an employer’s duty to an employee, and it involved a situation where a security guard ordered an intoxicated employee to drive home. The employee made it 500 feet before getting into an accident, and the court held, under these facts, that summary judgment was not appropriate for the employer to have their case dismissed.

Have You Been Injured in a Work-Related Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, these cases can be tricky because an employer’s liability may be limited if the injury arose outside the scope of employment. Moreover, the Florida workers’ compensation program may act as a sole remedy in some cases that do not involve third-party liability. The dedicated Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank offer well-reasoned advice and invaluable assistance to Florida injury victims. To learn more, and to discuss how the attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for the injuries you have sustained, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Accident Victim’s Failure to Provide Immediate Notice of Case May Preclude Recovery, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.

Used-Car Dealer May Be on the Hook for Injuries Related to Missing Muffler, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2018.

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