Parties appealed against judgments dismissing their claims of vicarious liability as against their employers after assaults by co-employees.
Held: Appeals were dismissed and allowed according to their facts.
In one case, one employee made a call out of hours to another employee (Mr Marsh) requesting him to do a voluntary shift to replace a sick employee. Mr Marsh, who had a history of antagonism with the first employee (Mr Weddall), was at home in an inebriated state having had a domestic row. He declined to come; instead he bicycled to the care home and launched an unprovoked attack on Mr Weddall. The employer was held not to be vicariously liable.
In another case, Mr Wallbank was at work in the normal way and was somewhat curt with a co-employee when indicating that he needed help with loading bed frames onto a conveyor belt. There was some minor history of difficulty between them but on this occasion the co-employee lost his temper and threw Mr Wallbank 12 feet across the factory floor onto a table. The employer was in that case held to be vicariously liable because the possibility of friction is inherent in any employment relationship, particularly in a factory where instant instructions and quick reactions were required.
Moore-Bick LJ said that there is now: ‘a more flexible principle governing the imposition of vicarious liability, which, in the case of wrongdoing by employees, turns on the closeness of the connection between the wrongful act and the employment. The principle is expressed in broad terms and since the factual circumstances of cases in which the imposition of vicarious liability falls to be considered differ widely, it is not surprising that one can find in the authorities different explanations of the factors which justify holding the defendant liable.’
In Wallbank (heard at the same time), a factory manager who gave an employee instructions was violently assaulted. The court held that the close connection test was satisfied since the possibility of friction is inherent in any employment relationship, but particularly one in a factory, where instant instructions and quick reactions are required. The risk of an over-robust reaction to an instruction was a risk created by the employment.
Pill, Moore-Bick, Aikens LJJ
 EWCA Civ 25,  IRLR 307
England and Wales
Cited – Gravil v Carroll and Another CA 18-Jun-2008
The claimant was injured by an unlawful punch thrown by the first defendant when they played rugby. He sought damages also against the defendant’s club, and now appealed from a finding that they were not vicariously liable. The defendant player’s . .
Cited – Lister and Others v Hesley Hall Ltd HL 3-May-2001
A school board employed staff to manage a residential school for vulnerable children. The staff committed sexual abuse of the children. The school denied vicarious liability for the acts of the teachers.
Held: ‘Vicarious liability is legal . .
Cited – Dubai Aluminium Company Limited v Salaam and Others HL 5-Dec-2002
Partners Liable for Dishonest Act of Solicitor
A solicitor had been alleged to have acted dishonestly, having assisted in a fraudulent breach of trust by drafting certain documents. Contributions to the damages were sought from his partners.
Held: The acts complained of were so close to . .
Cited – Fennelly v Connex South Eastern Ltd CA 11-Dec-2000
A ticket inspector, following an altercation with a passenger during which strong words were exchanged, had held the passenger in a headlock. The court had found this to be within the course of his employment so as to make the employer vicariously . .
Cited – Mattis v Pollock (T/A Flamingo’s Nightclub) QBD 24-Oct-2002
The claimant sought damages after being assaulted by a doorman employed by the defendant.
Held: The responsibility of the nightclub owner for the actions of his aggressive doorman was not extinguished by the separation in time and place from . .
Cited – Aldred v Nacanco Limited CA 27-Mar-1987
Several women were in the washroom provided by the employers at their factory. One decided to startle another by giving the wash basin a push, as a result of which the claimant twisted her back.
Held: Lawton LJ, with whom Sir John Donaldson MR . .
Cited – Brink’s Global Services Inc and Others v Igrox Ltd and Another CA 27-Oct-2010
There was a sufficiently close connection between an employee’s theft of silver from a customer’s container and the purpose of his employment to make it fair and just that his employer be held vicariously liable for his actions. Moore-Bick LJ said: . .
Cited – Bazley v Curry 17-Jun-1999
(Canadian Supreme Court) The court considerd the doctrine of vicarious liability: ‘The policy purposes underlying the imposition of vicarious liability on employers are served only where the wrong is so connected with the employment that it can be . .
Cited – Wilson v Exel UK Ltd SCS 29-Apr-2010
A supervisor in a depot was entrusted to implement the employers’ health and safety policies. In a prank, he forcefully pulled an employee’s head back by her hair.
Held: The pursuer’s appeal against rejection of the claim based upon vicarious . .
Cited – Bernard v The Attorney General of Jamaica PC 7-Oct-2004
PC (Jamaica) The claimant had been queuing for some time to make an overseas phone call at the Post Office. Eventually his turn came, he picked up the phone and dialled. Suddenly a man intervened, announced . .
Cited – Graham v Commercial Bodyworks Ltd CA 5-Feb-2015
The claimant had been very badly burned. He was covered in flammable liquid when a co-worker lit a cigarette.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed. ‘although the defendant employers did create a risk by requiring their employees to work with . .
Cited – Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc SC 2-Mar-2016
The claimant had been assaulted and racially abused as he left a kiosk at the respondent’s petrol station by a member of staff. A manager had tried to dissuade the assailant, and the claim for damages against the supermarket had failed at first . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Vicarious Liability, Personal Injury, Torts – Other
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.450467