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Court Decides Two Similar DWI Cases


These are two separate cases which were decided by the Supreme Court jointly as the issues are similar.

A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said that in the first case, a male employee of a manufacturing corporation stopped by a summer picnic on June 12, 1980 at Powder Mill Park in Rochester, New York. The summer picnic was organized by an employees’ social and athletic association whose members were all employees of the manufacturing corporation. The association had two annual social functions: the Christmas party and the summer picnic. The association collects $1 in monthly dues from its members and charges $5 for a ticket to the party. Food was freely available as was beer.

The male employee drank 6 or 8 cans of beer from the open bar. He left at around 10:30 p.m. and drove to a tavern and met up with friends. He continued drinking there until 2:00 a.m. At or around 2:30 a.m. he was driving home on the interstate 490 and when he got on the exit ramp, he figured in a head-on collision with a car driven by another. The male employee pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

According to a New York Drug Possession Lawyer the injured driver whose car was hit head-on by the car driven by the drunk male employee filed a civil suit in damages against the male employee, the tavern, the president of the employees’ association and the manufacturing corporation that employed the drunk male employee. He sued them all under New York’s Dram Shop Act because they sold and served alcohol that caused the male employees intoxication.

After trial, the trial court dismissed the complaint against the manufacturing corporation that employed the drunk driver ad also against the employees’ association. But it held the drunk male employee liable in negligence and the tavern for violation of the Dram Shop Act.

The injured driver appealed this decision of the trial court.

A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said that in the second case, a male employee worked as a machine operator at a tube company. He was working the second shift which started at 2:30 p.m. He took a break at 6:30 p.m. When he came back two hours later, the foreman at the tube company smelled alcohol on the breath of the machine operator and noticed that his eyes did not look right. The foreman then informed the machine operator that he was too drunk to perform his duties safely and fired him. He told him to leave the work premises.

The foreman saw the drunk machine operator leave the work premises. What he did not know was that the machine operator got into his car and drove home. About a mile away, the machine operator who was driving under the influence of alcohol swerved from his lane and drove his car onto the opposite lane. His car collided head-on with another car. The couple who were in that car both died.

A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer stated that the heirs of the couple who died as a result of being hit by the drunk machine operator’s car sued the machine operator, as well as the foreman and the owner of the tube company. The heir alleged that the foreman and the owner of the tube company were negligent in allowing the obviously drunk machine operator to drive while intoxicated.

The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment filed by the tube company owner. This order was appealed and on appeal, the appellate division reversed the trial court.

In these two cases, the common issue is whether or not the employers are liable for the accidents caused by their employees who left the workplace drunk and drove their cars while under the influence of alcohol and caused injury to others.

The Supreme Court stated that the law considered the act of drinking alcohol as the immediate cause of the injury but not the furnishing of the alcohol with which the drunk driver got drunk on. The Court differentiated the liability of landowners who have a duty to prevent harm to those who happen upon their property. Here the injuries resulted to the victims when they were already outside of the employer’s premises (the machine operator was fired while the other male employee had already gone home for the day)


The Court opined that while it is morally desirable to control and to supervise drinking so that those who drink cannot and will not cause injury to another, the courts cannot create a new legal duty where the law imposed none. There is a legal duty for employers to keep inebriated employees from driving or operating machinery while intoxicated while those employees are still at work and within the work premises; or, even when the intoxicated employees are out of the premises as long as they were still performing their duties. These two drunken employees were no longer at work; they were not longer discharging their functions as employees; and they were no longer within the work premises. They cannot be made liable for the injuries caused by them to third persons.

If you think that a criminal indictment for driving while intoxicated is the only thing you have to worry about, you probably did not know that those victims of injury caused by a drunk driver have a right to bring a suit in damages in civil courts. You need lawyer to help you present evidence and argue your case in civil courts as well. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, attorneys are ready to assist and to defend you both in the criminal as well as the civil case arising from a driving while intoxicated charge. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and ask to meet with a New York DWI lawyer to can help you.

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