Regardless of their occupational field, people are generally expected to show up to work prepared to do their specific job. This means that proper attire must be worn and the employee should be in a stable state of mind. Showing up drunk to work, needless to say, falls well below the threshold of a respectable working condition. In most jobs, showing up drunk to work would earn you an immediate pink slip. Yet some employers are more forgiving than others, one might argue, almost to a fault.
In sending home a drunk employee, rather than holding them until sobriety returns, an employer may be placed in an undesirable predicament. Allowing them to return home, especially by car, may expose other innocent people to the employee’s unstable condition. In the worst situations, these misguided decisions can lead to a wrongful death caused by drunk driving.
In 2013, 43-year-old Alisa Prueitt was working as an aide at the Hamilton Healthcare Center nursing home in Fort Worth, Texas. According to the Waco Tribune, Ms. Prueitt was convicted of DUI in 1998, but she falsified her application to the nursing home years later. One day, when she showed up for her 4:00 pm shift, her supervisors noticed that she was severely intoxicated. Rather than keep her at the facility to care for elderly patients, the administrators decided to send her home with a reprimand. Little did they know that they had just sealed the fate of an unsuspecting family heading home together.
At around 4:30, Pruiett drove her car drunkenly into oncoming traffic on State Highway 36. Her car slammed head-on into a car carrying the Graham family of Fort Worth. Samuel Graham, a therapist, and his wife, Sharla, a nurse, were in the front seat of their car and were killed by the impact of the rollover car crash. Their 8-year-old daughter suffered a fractured shoulder, and their 11-year-old son sustained only minor injuries.
Members of the Graham family brought a drunk driving lawsuit against Pruiett and the Hamilton Healthcare Center nursing home for the death of Samuel and Sharla. The plaintiffs were represented by Attorney Dale Williams. After a prolonged trial, a Fort Worth jury awarded the Graham family $16.7 million in injury damages. The court concluded that they were aware Prueitt had a drinking problem and knew she was drunk, but nevertheless allowed her to drive instead of taking her home or seeing that she had another ride. The nursing home had thus negligently allowed her to leave the premises heavily intoxicated.