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A plaintiff seeking recovery from a banquet-hosting employer under a respondeat superior theory of liability must prove the following: 1. The employee consumed alcohol at a party hosted by the employer which was held to further the employer's interest in some way and at which the employee's presence was requested or impliedly or expressly required by the employer. 2. The employee negligently consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication when he knew or should have known he would need to operate a vehicle on some public highway upon leaving the banquet. 3. The employee caused the accident while driving from the banquet. 4. The proximate cause of the accident, the intoxication, occurred at the time the employee negligently consumed the alcohol.
After the plaintiff driver settled claims against the employee and defendant lounge, she filed an action against the defendant employer to recover for injuries from a car accident with the employee. Then the employee declared that she had drunk two or three cognacs after leaving a banquet, in addition to two glasses of champagne that she had at the banquet. Witnesses testified that she did not appear drunk at the banquet. The plaintiff and police officer testified that the employee was obviously drunk at the scene of the accident shortly after leaving the banquet. The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment and found that the plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that the employee became intoxicated at the banquet. The appellate court affirmed.
Was the grant of summary judgment proper?
Summary judgment was improper because the plaintiff raised a genuine issue of fact. A reasonable jury could have found, based on the employee's own testimony, that she left the banquet only 20 minutes before she was involved in the accident and that the plaintiff’s and the officer's observations that the employee was obviously drunk at the scene were sufficient to raise a factual issue as to whether she was obviously intoxicated at the banquet.