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liability for the actions of your employees

15 October 2018

Vicarious liability is where employers are considered to be legally responsible for the acts or ommissions of their employees. The case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited is the latest in a series of cases that appear to continue to widen the circumstances in which vicarious liability will be held to apply.

In this case Mr Bellman was employed as a sales manager. Following the Christmas party, some attendees went to a hotel and continued drinking. The terms of employment of a new employee were discussed. The Managing Director, Mr Major, gave a lecture about his authority. When questioned about his actions by Mr Bellman, Mr Major punched the employee who sustained serious injuries.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the employer was vicariously liable for Mr Major’s actions, noting that;

  • Major had full control over how he conducted his role as company owner,
  • When lecturing the staff, Major was seeking to establish his authority in his role, and
  • The party followed a company event, with most employees attending and with the company paying for taxis and drinks.

Employers must be aware that they can be liable for acts of their employees even when they do not take place at work premises or during working hours.

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