Assault at the Christmas Party


6 December 2016

By Alexandra Dean

The High Court held in the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment that a company would not be vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party had ended. The case involved an assault of a manager by a director after a Christmas party. 

Following a work Christmas party the two, along with other colleagues, went on to a hotel and continued drinking until the assault occurred at 3.00 am. The assault caused serious brain injury to the manager and the decision was taken to sue the company rather than the director personally.

The question arose whether at the time the director struck the blow, was he 'acting in the course or scope of his employment" so as to make the company vicariously liable? It was held that the company could have been liable if the blow had been struck during the Christmas party itself, but the assault occurred after the party during a private drinking session and so the company was not vicariously liable. 

The judgment provides useful analysis of the authorities on vicarious liability, and a timely reminder to companies that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is flowing freely.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. At Gepp & Sons Solicitors we can advise on all aspects of employment law. For more information and guidance, please contact Alexandra Dean on 01245 228141 or email