Can a Company be vicariously liable for the action of an employee?

Can a Company be vicariously liable for the action of an employee?

February 19, 2017

Can a Company be vicariously liable for the action of an employee? It depends on what the case involves. In a recent case a Company was found not to be vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party has ended? This was because it was after the Christmas Party and not during it.

In the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment. The case involved an assault of a manager by a director after a Christmas party. Following a work Christmas party the two, along with other colleagues, went on to a hotel and continued drinking until the assault occurred at 3.00 am. The assault caused serious brain injury to the manager and the decision was taken to sue the Company, and in effect its insurers, rather than the director personally. The question arose whether at the time the director struck the blow, was he ‘acting in the course or scope of his employment” so as to make the Company vicariously liable? The Judge held that the company could have been liable if the blow had been struck during the Christmas party itself, but the assault in the hotel occurred after the party during a private drinking session and so the Company was not vicariously liable.

The judgment provides useful reference on vicarious liability, and a timely reminder to businesses that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is flowing freely.

But when else could the Company be vicariously liable?

In Early Years we often come across employers who ask their employees to transport children in their own car. This has huge potential for vicarious liability.

  • They own the car, are responsible for its MOT, maintenance, condition etc.
  • They drive the car, are responsible for their competence as a driver and the decisions they make.
  • You pay the employee to drive whilst transporting your paying customer; the children.

To protect yourself we recommend that staff drive a Company owned vehicle and that you establish their suitability with licence checks, pre use checklists etc.

If this is not possible then you need a robust process of checking insurance documentation, maintenance documentation, requesting assurances, validation and management to ensure that if the worse happens you will not find yourself vicariously liable.

For assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01527 909436.

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