Vicarious Liability re-examined in recent case: Mohamud v Morrisons

12 May 2016

In a recent case the Supreme Court has held that Morrisons supermarket were responsible for the actions of a member of staff who assaulted a customer.

It has long been established that in a number of situations an employer can be held liable for the actions of an employee where that employee was acting in the course of their employment. However, a number of cases had restricted this principle and it had previously been held that where an employee acted far beyond the scope of their employment, such as by committing a crime, this was unforeseeable to the employer and therefore, in some instances, they had not been held liable for the same.

However, in this case, the Court considered whether the nature of the employee’s job was sufficiently connected to the assault to make it just to hold the employer responsible. In this case the assault had taken place as a result of the Claimant’s enquiry of the employee (the Claimant had requested that the employee print some documents from a USB stick on his way to a rally against the war in Somalia, and the employee had responded with racial abuse culminating in a physical assault). It was held that part of the employee’s job was to deal with such enquiries. As such it was decided the act had been closely enough connected with the employee’s job for the employer to be held vicariously liable.