The annual work's Christmas Party may now seem like a distant memory after a long and cold January, but for some employers and employees alike, the antics at last year's event may still be the talk of the office or even worse a potential claim on the horizon for 2020.
Employers and employees will no doubt be aware of their duties and obligations during the working day but does that extend to the work's Christmas do?
Recent cases certainly indicate that even when employees are 'off duty' at the Christmas party, employers could still be responsible for the actions of its employees.
We have compared two recent cases where two employees pursued personal injury claims against their employers for injuries suffered at their work's Christmas party resulting in different outcomes – why?
In the most recent case of Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK the claimant brought a claim against her employer after sustaining an injury to her back when a scientist from an outside organisation, picked her up on the dance floor and unfortunately dropped her after losing his balance. The claimant was initially unsuccessful and appealed. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court's decision and held that whilst the claimant had suffered a back injury as a result of the actions of an inebriated partygoer, as the employer was not the employer of the scientist and had neither been negligent in its pre-party risk assessment and/or organisational arrangements, it was not liable to compensate the claimant.
However, in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, the Court of Appeal held that a temporary employer was liable for an assault by its Managing Director on an employee following its Christmas party. The High Court held that the company was not responsible for the actions of the Managing Director as it considered the drinks to be separate from the Christmas party. However, on Appeal the Court of Appeal held that there was a sufficiently close connection between the Managing Director's field of activities and the assault on the claimant.
Why is this decision important for claimants pursuing compensation for personal injury?
Employers should have the benefit of liability insurance to insure against claims for personal injury brought by employees who have suffered injury in the course of their employment. Claimants who suffer injury at work are therefore advised to pursue a claim against its employer even if the injury was caused by an employee, on the basis that the employer is generally responsible for the actions of its employees.
If, however, the actions of the employee who caused the injury are held to extend beyond the employer's responsibility then the claimant would be left to pursue its claim against the employee in their personal capacity, who may not have the financial means to pay compensation to the claimant.
Personal injury claims are often complex, and so it is vital to seek specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity. To arrange an appointment with one of our personal injury specialists, or to discuss your individual circumstances in further detail, please contact our Client Relations Team today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form on our website. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.
Visit our dedicated webpage on personal injury for further information on how to make a claim.
*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.