Is An Employer Always Vicariously Liable For The Acts Of Their Employees?

Is An Employer Always Vicariously Liable For The Acts Of Their Employees?

A recent case on this very point has just been decided by the Court of Appeal. The question for the Court of Appeal to consider was whether a supermarket should be vicariously liable for an assault on a customer by an employee?

The facts of the case are that a customer visited a Morrisons Petrol Station in Birmingham in March 2008. The customer entered the petrol station and asked if a Morrisons employee Mr Khan if he could print off some documents which were stored on a USB stick that the customer had on his person. Mr Khan responded in an abusive fashion which included racist language. He then proceeded to follow the customer to his car punch him in the head and then subject him to a serious assault involving punches and kicks whilst the customer was on the floor of the petrol station forecourt.

The customer sued Morrisons claiming it was vicariously liable for its employee’s actions. The Judge at first instance held it was not.

The Court of Appeal agreed. The question to be answered was whether there was a sufficiently close connection between the wrong doing (the assault) and the employment so that it would be fair and just to hold Morrisons vicariously liable.

The Judge however found that the assault had taken place at a time when Mr Khan’s Supervisor had specifically told him not to follow the customer out of the premises. It was held that the attack by Mr Khan was carried out “purely for reasons of his own accord” and as such these acts were beyond the scope of Mr Khan’s employment.

The case could be distinguished from cases involving vicarious liability where the employees’ duties include exercise authority in keeping order (such as a night club bouncer). Mr Khan’s duties included no element of keeping order over customers hence the decision.

If you have suffered some sort of injury which you believe an employer should be vicariously liable for then please do not hesitate to contact the dedicated employment team here at Michael Lewin Solicitors Limited who will be able to assist you.

Author: Ian Abel

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