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Mistletoe or Legal Woes: Holiday Parties May Pose Legal Pitfalls For M…

Mistletoe or Legal Woes: Holiday Parties May Pose Legal Pitfalls For Many Americans, New National Survey Finds
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Survey Commissioned by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyers.com

NEW YORK, Dec. 3 2004 – LAWFUEL – First for law, legal, law firm news — December may bring more than holiday cheer for many Americans. A survey released today reveals that holiday parties in homes and offices may result in trips to the courtroom for some.

Commissioned by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s lawyers.com, a free online
directory of 440,000 attorneys nationwide, and conducted by Harris
Interactive(R), the survey assessed U.S. adults’ vulnerability to common legal
pitfalls during the holiday season.

Hosting a Party at Home Involves More Than Planning A Menu

Nearly one in four (24%) adults do not know that a party host who serves
alcohol to a clearly drunk guest may be legally responsible if that person
goes on to hurt or kill someone in a car accident. Yet one in five (20%)
adults will host or co-host a holiday party this year at which alcohol will be
served.

“Most states have ‘social host’ laws, which hold party hosts liable in
certain situations if their guests who drink cause serious car crashes,” said
Alan Kopit, legal editor of lawyers.com.

“Such hosts may unwittingly put themselves in legal hot water by not
carefully monitoring their guests’ intoxication levels, particularly when they
get in their cars. A few precautionary minutes when planning parties can save
the time, money and the heartache of the legal ramifications of a guest’s
crash,” Kopit added.

Check Your Coat, But Not Your Professionalism, at This Year’s Office Party

Holiday office parties pose additional legal risks, the survey also
uncovered. Twenty-nine percent of adults have experienced or observed sexual
advances between people who work together at such gatherings, more than at any
other work event during the rest of the year, including those that occur
after-hours or on weekends or at the office during the work day.

“An office party can be the site of a sexual harassment situation just as
much as the office,” said Kopit. “Many people view an office holiday party as
a fun, carefree gathering of colleagues, during which normal professional
expectations are relaxed. In fact, from a legal perspective, just the opposite
is true.”

According to Kopit, the responsibility to ensure legal safety at holiday
parties falls under the purview of business owners. According to the survey,
however, many businesses regularly fail to take necessary precautions. Just 16
percent of Americans surveyed say that policy and behavior expectations,
including those involving sexual overtures among colleagues, have ever been
distributed prior to any holiday office party they attended.

Moreover, only 12 percent have been at a holiday office party at which car
keys were collected and returned only to sober drivers. Less than one in three
(30 percent) have gone to a holiday office party at which taxi or designated
driver service was provided to any employee who needed it.

“There’s no reason a business shouldn’t celebrate with its employees at
the end of the year,” said Kopit. “But anyone responsible for such an event
should make sure the business, and those attending, are legally safe. Letting
everyone attending explicitly know what behavior is prohibited — including
that which is flirtatious or sexual — can help remove sexual harassment
problems.”

“Keeping employees from driving after drinking at the party reduces
potential liability of the business, and helps ensure guests stay safe and
healthy to enjoy the New Year,” Kopit added. “If a business owner is in doubt
about the proper procedures to put in place at their office party, he or she
should discuss their options with an attorney.”

Background and Methodology:

Methodology

Harris Interactive(R) conducted the telephone survey on behalf of
LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyers.com between November 19 and 22, 2004
among a nationally representative sample of 1,051 U.S. adults ages 18 and
older, of whom 519 were men and 532 were women. Figures for age, gender,
geographic region, and race were weighted where necessary to align with
population proportions.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95
percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling
error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and that the results for the
individual samples of men and women have a sampling error of plus or minus 4
percentage points.

About LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyers.com

Lawyers.com, published by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, provides
consumers and small businesses access to a free database of more than 440,000
attorneys and law firms nationwide. The Martindale-Hubbell Legal Network is
the number-one resource for information about the worldwide legal profession,
and is consulted daily by lawyers, business executives and consumers. With
more than 4 million searches per month, this unrivaled network connects
lawyers and law firms with their clients and potential clients, facilitates
communication between members of the legal profession, and makes available a
wide range of biographical information and professional credentials regarding
attorneys in private, corporate and government practice. It is powered by a
database of more than 1 million lawyers and law firms around the world.

The LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Legal Network is available to users on
the Internet at http://www.martindale.com; http://www.lawyers.com; lexis.com,
the flagship legal research system from LexisNexis(TM); lexisONE(SM), the
LexisNexis resource for small-practice legal professionals; LexisNexis
services; on CD-ROM; and via the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. LexisNexis
Martindale-Hubbell is part of the LexisNexis Group, a member of the Reed
Elsevier Group plc. For more information, visit http://www.martindale.com.

About LexisNexis

LexisNexis (http://www.lexisnexis.com) is a leader in comprehensive and
authoritative legal, news and business information and tailored applications.
A member of Reed Elsevier Group plc [NYSE: ENL; NYSE: RUK]
(http://www.reedelsevier.com), the company does business in 100 countries with
13,000 employees worldwide. In addition to its flagship Web-based research
service, LexisNexis, the company includes some of the world’s most respected
legal publishers such as Martindale-Hubbell, Matthew Bender, Butterworths, Les
Editions du Juris-Classeur, Abeledo-Perrot and Orac.

About Harris Interactive(R)

Harris Interactive Inc. (http://www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th
largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a Rochester,
N.Y.-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting
with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and
application. Known for The Harris Poll(R) and for pioneering Internet-based
research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research
to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.

Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and
technology to advance market leadership through U.S. offices and wholly owned
subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (http://www.hieurope.com), Paris-based
Novatris (http://www.novatris.com), Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan,
through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide (http://www.wirthlinworldwide.com), a
Reston, Virginia-based research and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in
the world, and through an independent global network of affiliate market
research companies. EOE M/F/D/V

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