A Festive Fallout…Vicarious Liability of employers and Christmas parties

As everyone gets into the swing of party season the recent case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited has emphasised the responsibilities on employers even on a Christmas night out.  The facts of the case are the defendant company held a Christmas party at a local golf club at which most of the staff attended. After the party, some staff including the Claimant and Mr Major, a director and shareholder of the company, moved to a nearby hotel for a post event drink. Following a discussion over issues relating to the deployment of a member of staff, Mr Major punched Mr Bellman twice, knocking him to the floor and leaving him with brain damage.  Mr Bellman sued his employer for Mr Major’s actions arguing that they were vicariously liable for the assault.

His Honour Judge Cotter QC held that as the organised event at the Golf Club had ended and the expectation or obligation on an employee to attend had ceased, the spontaneous post event drink at the hotel could not be seen as a seamless extension of the Christmas party. The Judge therefore held that the company was not liable for the actions of Mr Major at the hotel and the claimant’s case failed against the company.

This decision assists in showing the limit to which an employer could be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees. There is, however, a note of caution as the Judge found this case to be fact specific, and alluded to the fact that the decision may have been different if the assault had taken place at the Christmas party itself.

Please click on the following link to read the full judgment:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2016/3104.html

If you have any queries regarding Employers Liability please contact Laura.McKee@tughans.com or Kathy.McGillie@tughans.com

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While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.