Friday, March 26, 2021

Employer Running Golf Tournament Found to Be Social Host Under Dram Shop Claim (Not Liable)

In the case of Klar v. Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., No. 10863 of 2015 (C.P. Lawr. Co. Jan. 15, 2021 Cox, J.), the court issued a Rule 1925 Opinion for appellate purposes with regards to the trial court’s granting of a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings against the Plaintiff and in favor of an employer in a case in which the court ruled that an employer who collects contributions for a social event was still considered to a social host with respect to any liability claims under the Dram Shop Act. Based upon this ruling, the trial court dismissed the Plaintiff’s negligence claims against the employer.

According to the Opinion, the Pennsylvania was injured in a motor vehicle accident when the vehicle operated by the Defendant driver struck the Plaintiff’s motorcycle.

The Defendant driver was an employee of Dairy Farmers of America. That employer had sponsored a golf outing and encouraged its employees to attend. The employees made a monetary contribution to offset the cost of the greens fees, food, and alcohol. After collecting the contributions from the employees, the employer paid for the event in its entirety.

The Plaintiff alleged that, at the event, the Defendant driver consumed an amount of alcohol that raised his blood alcohol level beyond the legal limit. The Defendant driver then proceeded to drive and was involved in the accident with the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff sued the Defendant driver as well as his employer under negligence claims. The employer filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings arguing that it was not liable under the Dram Shop Act because it was a social host.

In this matter, the court followed Pennsylvania law in which other courts had declined to impose liability on non-licensed person who furnished alcohol to individuals for no renumeration. The court ruled that, in order for the Plaintiff to hold the employer liable in this situation, the Plaintiff was required to show that the employer was a person “selling” liquor.

Here, the court noted that the alcohol expense was only a portion of the expenses that the employer paid for the gold event.

While the court recognized that, under case law pertaining to the collective purchase of alcohol, social hosts could be employers or other entities as well as individuals. The court noted that, under Pennsylvania law, social host status did not disappear because the furnishing of alcohol was collective rather than gratuitous.

However, in this matter, the court held that the payment of a fee to defer the costs of the gold outing, with alcohol being only an incidental part of the fee and without any other evidence of the commercial sale of liquor, did not support a claim for either common law negligence or negligence per se against the employer.

As such, in this Rule 1925 Opinion, the trial court requested that the appellate court uphold the trial court’s decision dismissing the Plaintiff's negligence claim against the employer.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 3, 2021).

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