Office Holiday Party Lessons From an Egg Nog Chugging Contest

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on December 24, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As they like to say, lawyers are risk-averse. And no lawyers are perhaps more risk-averse than inside counsel. Every time someone in the company comes to you, your answer is probably going to be "no."

And that's why GCs should steer clear of the holiday party, where liability abounds. This is the story of one such holiday party that sent one worker to the hospital.

The Things You'd Do for a Steak

Ryan Roche just wanted to have fun at the office's egg nog chugging contest, Salt Lake City's KSL-TV reports. Being that this is Utah, the contest involved non-alcoholic egg nog, but that didn't stop terrible things from happening.

Roche drank a quart of egg nog in 12 seconds, beating the old record of 22 seconds. He won a coveted Ruth's Chris Steak House gift card, but didn't feel so well after his accomplishment. A few hours later, Roche was shaking uncontrollably, felt nauseated, and was panting instead of breathing.

At the hospital, Roche found out what was wrong: He had inhaled some of the egg nog into his lungs. The holiday treat had started an infection in his lungs, so doctors had to give him "the nuclear weapon of antibiotics." Three days later, he left the hospital. A week later, he felt fine.

We're guessing the steak house gift card didn't pay for the trip to the hospital.

This Party's Just Getting Tortious

Not entirely sure you want to stay away from the company party? At least you can use your fancy degree to convince the company to dial it back a little. Minneapolis lawyer Kate Bischoff tactfully told NPR that she "represent[s] clients who are handling the aftermath of a holiday party when it has gone off the rails" and has some advice for companies. For example: Don't hit on subordinates, don't let alcohol flow freely, and don't steal stuff from the venue where you're having a party. Many of the problems she's seen stem from alcohol.

Her advice, and the advice of other HR professionals, is to use drink tickets not only to limit the amount of booze involved, but to limit the employer's liability. Of course, that wouldn't have helped poor Ryan Roche, but the problem he faced can be eliminated for future holiday parties: No more egg nog-drinking contests.

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