Employer responsibility – what is vicarious liability?

Posted by Deborah Lewis, 1st January 2017
Bad news for employers but good news for victims

Whilst considering the current duties owed by an employer for the actions of its employees, I was very pleased to read the recent Supreme Court cases of Cox v Ministry of Justice and Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc, which seek to expand even further and consolidate the legal principle of vicarious liability. This is the principle whereby an employer can be held liable for the actions of its employees.

In Cox v Ministry of Justice, Mrs Cox was employed by HMP Swansea and worked in a kitchen. She was injured when a prisoner negligently dropped a sack of rice upon her. Mrs Cox’s claim was initially rejected on the grounds that the prisoner was not an employee for which the prison service could be vicariously liable. The Supreme Court however stated that the Ministry of Justice was responsible for the actions of the prisoner and held that the prisoner was working in an employment-like relationship when carrying the sack of rice in the kitchen.

Similarly, in Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets, Mr Mohamud was racially abused at a Morrisons petrol station by a Morrison’s employee – Mr Khan. Rather than the employee being held to have acted outside his employment, the Supreme Court held that as the employee was required to deal with customers as part of his duties, Morrisons were responsible for Mr Khan’s actions whist carrying out those duties.

These cases illustrate the Supreme Court’s enthusiasm to hold employers responsible for the actions of its employees, however misguided they may be, and to find employment like relationships to assist victims in successfully recovering compensation whilst at work.

If you have been injured at work by a colleague or at a workplace which is not your own by someone employed there, we would be pleased to assist you in pursuing a personal injury claim on a no win no fee basis. Please contact us for a free initial discussion with one of our experts.

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