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Allow BYOB at work celebrations?

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Q. We are an accounting firm. At the end of a grueling tax season, we celebrate with a company party. We’ve stopped supplying alcohol due to liability concerns. But could we allow employees to BYOB? We’d never let employees leave drunk, but could we be sued if they cause an accident? — J.J., Missouri

A. Yes, it’s possible. States typically have “dram shop” laws that say someone injured by an intoxicated person can sue the establishment contributing to that person’s intoxication.

For example, when two drunk bar patrons get into a fight, the injured person can also sue the bar. (Dram shop laws vary from state to state. In Missouri, the law makes it relatively difficult for the plaintiff to prevail.)

Bottom line: Dram shop liability may exist even if your company doesn’t buy any alcohol but simply provides a forum in which to consume it. 

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