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/ 04 Mar 2016

Are you responsible for the actions of your violent employee?

In Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc [2016] UKSC 11 the Supreme Court held that an employer is vicariously (indirectly) liable for an employee’s actions, in this case an assault on a customer. This was a personal injury claim as Mr Mohammed had visited a petrol station owned by the Defendant. He had asked whether he could print some documents from a memory stick. He had been refused that service in a particularly abusive way. He was then assaulted by Mr Khan one of the attendants.

If a claim for vicarious liability is to be successful then two limbs of the claim must be established:

  • Firstly there is a relationship between the primary wrongdoer and the person alleged to be liable which is capable of giving rise to claim for vicariously liability.
  • Secondly that the connection between the employment and the wrongful act or omission is so close that it would be just and reasonable to impose liability.

This case follows decisions on the second limb which established that if the act had sufficient connection to the employment then the employer would be vicariously liable such as Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2001] UKHL 22 which was a case regarding the sexual assault of children at a boarding school.

In the case of Mohamud the first limb that was considered. The Court held that Mr Khan had obviously acted in an outrageous and unacceptable way but had acted in the course of employment in that as well as assaulting Mohammed, he was on duty, had his employer’s uniform on and had told Mr Khan never to come back to that petrol station again and therefore was attempting “to protect” his employer’s premises from Khan’s presence.

It is true to say that the courts have extended the concept of vicarious liability on public policy grounds. Mr Mohamud had been assaulted and deserved compensation and, of course, Morrisons have deeper pockets than Mr Khan. This case does not necessarily extend the concept of vicarious liability but it is an illustration of the broad approach taken by Courts to allow a claim vicarious liability to succeed.

If you have any questions in regard to employment then please contact our team.

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