Is a company vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party has ended?
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Vicarious Liability: Assault at Christmas Party

Thanks to Neil Addison of New Bailey Chambers for preparing this case summary
Is a company vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party has ended?

No, held the High Court in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment.

The case involved an assault of a manager by a director after a Christmas party. Following a work Christmas party the two, along with other colleagues, went on to a hotel and continued drinking until the assault occurred at 3.00 am. The assault caused serious brain injury to the manager and the decision was taken to sue the company, and in effect its insurers, rather than the director personally.

The question arose whether at the time the director struck the blow, was he 'acting in the course or scope of his employment" so as to make the company vicariously liable? The Judge held that the company could have been liable if the blow had been struck during the Christmas party itself, but the assault in the hotel occurred after the party during a private drinking session and so the company was not vicariously liable. 

The judgment provides useful analysis of the authorities on various liability, and a timely reminder to companies that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is flowing freely.

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Case summaries are written by a panel of about 40 specialist employment barristers and solicitors.
Daniel Barnett is a barrister with 20 years’ experience litigating and advising in employment, HR and associated litigation. He is primarily a litigator, described in legal directories as “tenacious”, “inexhaustible” and “an excellent advocate”. He has been instructed by a Royal Family, international airlines, various FTSE-250 companies, local authorities, NHS Trusts, as well as a myriad of SMEs. Employee clients range from senior executives of quoted companies through to David & Victoria Beckham’s nanny. His specific areas of interest are post-termination restrictive covenants, age discrimination and retirement issues, industrial law (strikes), employment agencies and permanent health insurance disputes. He practises from Outer Temple Chambers, a highly regarded set of Chambers in London.
Outer Temple Chambers’ employment and discrimination team is an important player in the field. We have acknowledged expertise representing both employer and employee, covering all aspects of collective and individual employment law, including High Court breach of contract and injunction proceedings, and all aspects of individual and collective employment rights.

We appear regularly in the civil courts and tribunals, before the Central Arbitration Committee, all appellate courts, and in mediations. Members of our team also accept instructions to act as external decision-makers, and to advise public and private sector employers and service-providers.

Members of Chambers who advise and represent in employment law disputes, listed in order of call (experience), are:-
  • Andrew Short QC
  • Keith Bryant QC
  • Gerard McDermott QC
  • Mark Mullins
  • Natasha Joffe
  • Daniel Barnett
  • Naomi Cunningham
  • Andrew Allen
  • Benjimin Burgher
  • Lydia Seymour
  • David Grant
  • Sarah Crowther
  • James Arnold
  • Naomi Ling
  • Oliver Assersohn
  • Michael Uberoi
  • Daniel Clarke
  • Saul Margo
  • Clare Baker
  • Nicholas Hill
  • Keira Gore
  • Will Young
  • Simon Oakes
  • Miranda de Savorgnani
  • Saaman Pourghadiri
  • Katarina Sydow
  • Stephen Doherty
  • Paul Livingston
  • Bianca Venkata

Please see for further details.
For further information, or to enquire about his
availability, please contact Daniel Barnett's clerks on 020 7353 6381 or visit
Daniel Barnett
Outer Temple Chambers
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London, WC2R 1BA
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