Vicarious liability: Employer not liable for Christmas party injury

In Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK [2019] EWHC 842 (QB), whilst at a work Christmas party, one attendee had attempted to lift another (the Claimant, an employee) on the dancefloor but dropped her, causing her a serious back injury. The Claimant took the matter to the County Court, claiming the employer (CRUK) was vicariously liable for the actions of the attendee (Robert Beilik, a visiting scientist) because it was a work event. The person who had organised the event for the employer was Mr Hadfield, and he had carried out a risk assessment to cover all the foreseeable hazards of holding an event at the premises (which included laboratories). Mr Beilik had picked up several women that night, prior to this incident, but had put them down again straight away and no one had reported any concerns about him.

The County Court held that the employer was not negligent and not vicariously liable for the actions of Mr Beilik. The Claimant appealed. The High Court considered the nature of the occasion and agreed with the County Court Recorder. It was not wrong to find that CRUK took reasonable steps in the planning and operation of the party. No duty of care was breached. The claim for negligence was, accordingly, not made out. Furthermore, he was right to find that Mr Beilik's field of activities was his research work at CRUK and that this field was not sufficiently connected with what happened at the party as to give rise to vicarious liability.

Published: 29 April 2019

Article Sections: Miscellaneous

Tags: vicarious liability, christmas party


The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.