After a serious or fatal accident, determining legal liability can sometimes be tricky. If a drunk driver strikes and kills a pedestrian, for example, there is little doubt that the drunk driver bears liability. But if he was drinking and driving while on the job or at a company-sponsored event where alcohol was served, it is possible in some cases to also hold the employer liable.
A similar scenario to the one mentioned above is currently playing out here in California. The accident victim was a 27-year-old woman who was struck by an alleged drunk driver last December and died several days later. The alleged drunk driver was an aide to U.S. Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara. Both the aide and Rep. Capps have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s family.
On the night of the fatal accident, the aide had attended and consumed alcohol at an invitation-only holiday party hosted by the Santa Barbara News-Press. At issue is whether the aide attended the party for his own enjoyment or as a representative of the congresswoman.
Earlier this month, the now-former aide pleaded guilty to striking the pedestrian and fleeing the scene. He has also testified that he attended the party on behalf of Rep. Capps. Others claim he even discussed policy with party guests that night. But Rep. Capps and other staffers allege that the aide attended the party on his own.
The details of the case are somewhat complex, but liability in the wrongful death lawsuit seems to center around whether or not the aide was working for Congresswoman Capps that night. If so, she and the U.S. government could be held liable in the lawsuit in addition to her former aide.
Source: Fox News, “California rep sued over DUI death, questions raised about ties to driver,” April 24, 2014