Vicarious Liability

Shiva Shadi, Partner and Head of Employment at Davis Blank Furniss

The Court of Appeal in Bellman –v- Northampton Recruitment Limited has held that the Respondent company was vicariously liable for its managing director’s actions at a Christmas party.   Following a Christmas party organised by the Respondent company, the MD arranged taxis to transport staff to a hotel where they continued drinking with the drinks being paid mainly by the company.  Later on that evening, an argument broke out about a decision that had been made by the MD which led to the MD summoning the staff to lecture them at the after party.  Mr Bellman then questioned the MD’s decision which resulted in him punching Mr Bellman and causing brain damage.

The Court took into account that the MD owned the company and was in fact its most senior employee.  He also had control over how he conducted his role.  When he was lecturing his staff at the after party he was doing so with his MD’s hat on and establishing his authority in that role.

Furthermore the Court considers that the after party was not purely a social event but a follow on from an organised work event attended by most of the company’s employees.  It was therefore held that there was sufficient connection between the MD’s wrongful conduct and his role and accordingly the company was held to be vicariously liable for his actions.

It is envisaged that damages will be in the region of £1,000,000.

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