On the twelfth day of Christmas the Court of Appeal gave to me…

18 Nov 2019

The recent case of Shelbourne v Cancer Research highlights the importance of ensuring you are safe at office Christmas parties over the festive period. The judge at first instance has ruled that employers may not be vicariously liable for their workers actions.

The Claimant brought a claim for vicarious liability when she injured her spine after being picked up and dropped by a fellow worker. She claimed that the workplace had inadequate supervision / organisation and that the workplace was vicariously liable for the actions of her fellow worker. The Claimant was unsuccessful on first instance and was later refused permission to be appealed in the Court of Appeal.

The pivotal claims that set out the basis for vicarious liability are those of Cox v Ministry of Defence [2016] and Mohamud v WM Morrision Supermarkets Plc [2016]. The cases set out that in order for an employer to be vicariously liable for the actions of an employee, the employee must have been acting ‘in course of their employment’.

The stance that the Court of Appeal took was that a works Christmas party is an optional event that employees / workers can attend if they wish to do so, the fellow worker had in fact lifted other employees up and they had not reported this as a concern and the employee was not acting in course of their employment.

This case highlights that a connection between an ‘employee’ and a ‘workplace’ is not sufficient for an employer to be held vicariously liable for an employees actions, Claimants must go further to prove negligence.


Emily Thompson

Trainee Solicitor