Vicarious liability at Christmas: Work, The Party, The After-Party

Case review: Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2016] EWHC 3104(QB)

In the early hours of the morning, a heated discussion took place between the Managing Director and an employee regarding work matters.  The Managing Director proceeded to punch the individual (Mr Bellman) causing serious injury.  Mr Bellman brought High Court action seeking damages from the company (the Defendant) on the basis that it was vicariously liable for the actions of the Managing Director. 

The legal question was whether the Defendant (as the employer) was vicariously liable for the assault. The test is whether the actions were so closely connected with the employment that it would be fair and just to hold the employer vicariously liable.   What was of particular interest in this case was that the punch did not take place at the Christmas party itself, but rather at an after party to the Christmas party where non work matters were predominantly discussed and the guests were not all employees.  It was held that the drinking session was of a very different nature to the Christmas party and unconnected with the Defendant’s business. There was therefore insufficient connection to make it right for the Defendant to be held liable as the assault did not occur in the course of the employment and the company could not be held liable for what took place.

Posted on 01/12/2017 by Ortolan

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