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3 April 2014 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Vicarious liability – employer not responsible

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In a decision which differs from another reported case in this Update on vicarious liability, Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarket Limited, the Court of Appeal has held that the employer was not vicariously liable for the assault on a customer by one of its employees. The facts were that the Claimant, (of Somali origin) visited the Respondent’s supermarket and petrol station and asked the employee behind the counter if it was possible to print off some documents on a USB stick. The employee responded in an abusive and racist fashion, upon which the customer left but was followed by the employee who subjected the customer to a serious attack involving punches and kicks.

The claim was dismissed at first instance, the Recorder holding that although the employee had plainly assaulted the customer, the Respondent was not vicariously liable because, while the employer/employee relationship could give rise to vicarious liability, the requirement set out in Lister v Hesley Hall Limited that there is a sufficiently close connection between the wrongdoing and the employment was not found.

This was upheld in the Court of Appeal, which decided that there was no evidence to show that the attack had a sufficiently close connection with the employment to enable the finding of vicarious liability. The mere fact of contact between a sales assistant and a customer which is clearly authorised by an employer is not sufficient of itself to find an employer culpable of vicarious liability.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222

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