The strange cases of St. Patrick’s Day

March 16, 2012

Scales and shamrockTomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday celebrated with shamrocks, the color green, and, of course, by consuming alcohol.

When there’s a lot of drinking involved, chances are the law will somehow have to get involved along with it.

As you would expect, Westlaw’s database is laden with cases involving someone having too much to drink and causing problems because of it.

Nonetheless, some cases, such as Solley v. Mullins Trucking Co., Inc., have an added twist to them.

Solley involved a company St. Patrick’s Day party at which alcohol was provided along with a tragic occurrence: a man had too much to drink, got into a fight with his girlfriend, and physically assaulted her.

The twist here is that the man was the employer of his girlfriend, and the girlfriend sued the company for causing the assault by negligently providing alcohol at the party.

Because of a Georgia statute insulating providers of alcohol from such liability, the girlfriend’s suit failed (though I’m sure the employer faced some criminal penalties).

But even without the assistance of alcohol, people can still do very stupid things on St. Patrick’s Day.

In another case involving employer liability – Southwestern Bell Telephone, L.P. v. Edwards – the one of the plaintiff’s managers, during a work St. Patty’s Day celebration, “dressed up as a stereotypical ghetto African American,” “green afro” and all.

Classy.

The employer was sued for employment discrimination, and the plaintiff claimed that this incident created a hostile work environment.

The employer liability cases don’t end there, though.

Take Schuster v. Thomas A. Endicott, P.C., in which the plaintiff sued her employer for sexual harassment.

One of the many instances of this behavior occurred on St. Patrick’s Day.

When the employer found the plaintiff bending over a file, he pinched her butt.

When she told him he was out of line, he laughed and responded that she was not wearing green (Schuster won her suit, by the way).

Apparently, pinching someone for not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is commonly used as an excuse by sexual predators in their endeavors.

In Scott County School Dist. 2 v. Dietrich, a male teacher was fired for his numerous inappropriate sexual advances on female students, one of them consisting of a pinch on St. Patrick’s Day for not wearing green.

Okay, so school and work don’t provide guaranteed insulation from a St. Patrick’s Day gone awry.

Surely a family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day is safe, right?

Don’t count on it.

Tauzier v. St. Patrick Parade Committee of Jefferson, Inc. is an example of some pretty bad planning.

In that case, a rider of a float in a St. Patrick’s Day parade was injured when an audio speaker struck her in the head after it was knocked down from atop the float by an overhanging tree branch.

Considering State v. Rome, the parade doesn’t seem any safer for the spectators.

In Rome, at around 10 p.m. on the night of St. Patrick’s Day, the defendant drove a van into a group of people – 39 people, to be exact – who were standing on the sidewalk watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade in New Orleans.

As you would expect, the driver was quite intoxicated at the time, but luckily, only one person was killed.

Still, one person is one too many for something that could have been easily avoided.

If you go out drinking this St. Patrick’s Day, unless you’d like to be the defendant in a case like the ones mentioned, don’t do anything stupid.

Or at least, don’t do anything stupid that can get you into legal trouble.

That said, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!