Vicarious Liability and its scope has broadened somewhat of late. It most commonly occurs when an employee has acted in a negligent way or manner for which the employer will be held responsible, as Adrian Samuel from our Litigation Team explains.
If your receptionist puts your customer in a headlock you could well be liable for that.
Would that surprise you?
Think about it. Your receptionist comes in every day and is a mild-mannered person. But on this particular day a customer starts causing a rumpus and just won’t shut up. The receptionist (being bombarded with calls at the same time as having to deal with this customer who seems to have some kind of bee in his bonnet) vaults the reception desk and puts the customer in a headlock.
A month later you get a nastily worded letter from a hot shot law firm threatening a claim for big money for the neck injury, cranial bruising and cut lip and broken front teeth of the (now rather less vocal (on account of the injury!)) customer.
I can imagine the reaction might initially be laughter then annoyance a good deal of anger and then fear.
- You would be right to be fearful.
- You had better notify your insurers.
- You are probably going to be liable.
What?! A member of staff does something they are not employed to do, something entirely outside what they would do as part of their usual work routine and on top of that they have assaulted someone….and I am responsible for that? What the…*.
Courts are saying these days that such acts (of employees, owners, directors) which are “sufficiently connected” to the work can render you vicariously liable.
Vicarious liability is a really interesting area of developing law and you had better watch out…no really. If the court thinks the connection test is made out and it is “just and reasonable” to make you pay – then pay you will.
The most recent case in which an MD walloped an employee at an “after party” causing him serious brain damage was perhaps circumstantially very unique but a sure sign that the risks are there day in and day out.
What can you do? Make sure your insurances cover you for such things arising out of the employment relationship……and otherwise.