Bellman v Northampton Recruitment
Following the company Christmas party a number of the employees went on to a hotel to continue drinking. At around 3am a director assaulted Bellman causing serious brain injury, and Bellman sought damages from the company rather than the director, on the basis that they were vicariously liable. The High Court had to determine whether the company were liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party has ended. And they held that they were not.
They had to consider whether the director struck the blow whilst ‘acting in the course or scope of his employment’. The Judge held that if the assault had taken place at the Christmas party itself, the company could be liable, but as it took place many hours after the party the company were not vicariously liable.
It’s good to know that the law follows common sense sometimes, by not extending liability to events that took place is social situations outside of organised work events, but this also acts as a reminder to employers that they could be held responsible for improper conduct or behaviour at work events, particularly ones that involve alcohol. It is recommended that employer’s actively take steps to mitigate the risk of violence in the workplace, which extends to work events, by reviewing their policies on the issue, ensuring that these policies are brought to the attention of all employees and, where there is violence, taking disciplinary action.