Is a Company vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a work Christmas party has ended?


This was the question asked recently of the High Court in the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment.

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 he took the decision to sue the Company, rather than the Director personally.

The High Court had to determine whether at the time the Director assaulted the Manager, if he was 'acting in the course of his employment' so as to make the Company vicariously liable.

The Judge held that the Company could have been liable if the blow had been struck during the Christmas party itself, but given that the assault occurred in the hotel after the party during a private drinking session, the Company was not vicariously liable. 

This is a timely reminder to companies that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is flowing freely.

Fiona Haworth. You can contact Fiona on

If you feel that you need guidance or advice on this matter, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Fiona on the above.

Back to recent articles