Imagine this: Your company faces a lawsuit because an employee caused an off-work car accident. The injured people claim the employee’s long work hours helped cause the accident.
John Keenan crashed his car into another driven by Laurie Riley. Her husband, Gregory, was a passenger.
While her husband’s injuries were minor, Laurie suffered knee and pelvis injuries that left her unable to work.
The Rileys claim Keenan’s long work shifts at Glen Habina & Sons, Inc., were partially to blame for the accident.
Keenan usually worked eight-to-nine hour days as a vehicle driver. But sometimes, after he completed his driving shift, he worked several more hours repairing vehicles.
On the day of the accident, Keenan worked his regular shift but didn’t work any extra hours repairing vehicles.
After work, he went to at least one bar. After the accident, his blood-alcohol level was measured at .178. At trial, an expert estimated that Keenan had consumed 13 12-ounce beers before the accident.
The Rileys claimed the combination of work fatigue and alcohol consumption caused the crash and sought to hold two bars and his employer responsible.
Good news for employers: A jury and then a state appeals court both ruled sensibly. They found that the alcohol consumption was a factor in the crash, but not work fatigue because on the day of the crash he hadn’t worked long hours.
The appeals court noted other courts have found employers liable when their employees cause auto accidents after required long work shifts.
But the court said that wasn’t the case here. Keenan worked only nine hours on the day in question, and he had a sufficient rest period — at least 13.5 hours — before his previous shift.