• In the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2018] EWCA CIV 2214, the court had to decide if a company was vicariously liable for their director’s misconduct, provided there was ample connection between the assault and his employment.
  • Legal Principles:

Test for Vicarious Liability: Barclays Blank Plc v Various Claimants [2020] UKSC 13

“Two elements have to be shown before one person can be made vicariously liable for the torts committed by another. First, the relationship between the two persons makes it proper for the law to make one pay for the fault of the other. Second, the connection between that relationship and the tortfeasor’s wrongdoing.”

Facts of the Case

  • C worked as the sales manager, and D worked as the managing director of the company, Northampton recruitment Ltd.
  • After the company‘s annual Christmas Party, D decided to extend the party and change the location. D paid all the extra expenses the employees might have incurred.
  • At around 3 am, following a heated argument between C and D, D punched C on his head; causing him to sustain a fracture to his skull, subdural and subarachnoid haemorrhages and a left frontal lobe contusion. This resulted in him suffering from traumatic brain damage.

Issues in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2018] EWCA CIV 2214

  • The case raises the issue of the scope of vicarious liability of the employee’s wrongful  conduct.

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • Court ruled in favour of C, the company was vicariously liable for the wrongful behaviour of D.

Lady Justice Asplin

Field of activities

  • D was responsible for all the management decisions of the company.
  • “However it cannot be right that the effect of such a wide range and duration of duties is that Mr Major, D, could always be considered to be on, or potentially on duty, solely because he was in the company of other employees regardless of circumstances.”
  • D”s remit and authority was wide.

Connection between D’s field of activities and the wrongful conduct

  • The extension was not a part of the office Christmas Party but the drinks occurred on the very same night of the event hosted by the managing director.
  • “His managerial decision-making having been challenged, he took it upon himself to exercise authority over his subordinate employees by summoning them and expounding the extent and scope of his authority with the intention of quelling dissent.”
  • The assault arose because of his misuse of power, therefore, fulfilling the criteria of the sufficiency of connection.

Editor’s Notes

  • This case explores the aspects of vicarious liability, and defined that the scope of conduct extends outside work hours and space.