Assault at the Office Christmas Party – are we liable?

It seems like every year we send out a reminder that Companies can be held responsible for the inebriated improper behaviour of their employees at the office Christmas party. But what about bad behaviour that takes place after the party?

It seems like every year we send out a reminder that Companies can be held responsible for the inebriated improper behaviour of their employees at the office Christmas party. But what about bad behaviour that takes place after the party?

We have recently had a very timely High Court judgement on Bellman v Northampton Recruitment. In this case a manager and a director were among several colleagues who decided to go to a private hotel room after the Christmas party and continue drinking. At 3am an assault occurred where the director punched the manager twice, causing him to fall and hit his head, resulting in a serious brain injury. The manager tried to sue the Company and its insurers, rather than the director.

The High Court considered whether the director was “acting in the course or scope of his employment” at the time of the incident. The judge ruled that as the assault took place during a private drinking session and so the Company was not vicariously liable. Had this occurred during the actual Christmas party they could have been.

 

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