Company’s liability for actions of its director: assault at a Christmas party

Is a company liable for injuries caused by the company director after a work Christmas party has ended? No, answered the High Court in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment.

Northampton Recruitment organised a Christmas party for its staff. After the party ended, the guests went on to a hotel and continued drinking. At around 3.00 am and argument erupted between one of the company directors and a manager. The assault caused serious brain injury to the manager.

The manager sued the company for personal injuries arguing that the company was vicariously responsible for the actions of its director. The court had to decide whether at the time the director inflicted the injuries he was acting in the scope of his employment. The court took the view that as the Christmas party organised by the company had clearly ended by the time of the assault, the blow was struck at a private drinking party and hence the company had no liability. The court went on to say that the decision would have been different had the assault taken place at the Christmas party itself.

This judgment provides a timely reminder to companies that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is provided in plenty.


Authors: Kiril Moskovchuk

Published: 13 Jan 2017


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