Purton v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., 218 Cal. App. 4th 499 (2013)

In December 2009, the Marriott Del Mar Hotel held its annual holiday party as a “thank you” to its employees and management. Marriott did not require its employees to attend the party. Michael Landri was employed as a bartender at the hotel. Landri, who did not work on the day of the party, drank a beer and a shot of Jack Daniel’s whiskey at home before arriving at the party; Landri took a flask to the party, which he estimated held about five ounces, filled to some degree with whiskey. Landri re-filled his flask with more whiskey from the bar at least once (but possibly more than once) during the party. At approximately 9:00 p.m., Landri left the party and drove (or was driven) home. Landri did not drink any more after leaving the party. After arriving home safely, Landri decided to get back on the road to drive another intoxicated co-worker to the co-worker’s house. During the second trip, Landri (who had a blood alcohol level of 0.16) drove over 100 miles per hour and rear-ended Dr. Jared Purton’s vehicle, killing Dr. Purton. The trial court granted Marriott’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that Landri was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, but the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, holding that “a trier of fact could conclude the party and drinking of alcoholic beverages benefitted Marriott by improving employee morale and furthering employer-employee relations… [and] that Landri was acting within the scope of his employment while ingesting alcoholic beverages at the party.” The fact that Landri had arrived home safely before venturing out again did not cut off Marriott’s liability as a matter of law. Compare Rayii v. Gatica, 2013 WL 4446778 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013) (judgment affirmed where jury determined negligent driver was not acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident).