The Supreme Court has overturned a decision in the Court of Appeal to hold that the supermarket chain was liable for the acts of a supermarket petrol station employee, who followed a customer out of the store and brutally kicked and punched them on the forecourt.
Usually, and as in this case, the employer would have argued that the employee was acting on a frolic of their own, and not in the course of their employment when they carried out such acts.
In this case The Supreme Court examined the nature of the employees job and whether there was a sufficient connection between the job and his wrongful acts to make his employer liable.
They found that as his job involved attending on customers and responding to their enquiries. They felt his attack followed on directly from his interaction with the customer. As part of the exchange, immediately prior to the assault, the employee ordered the customer to stay away from the premises suggesting he was still purporting to act on his employers behalf.
This case has seriously weakened employers defences to situations where their employees appear to go 'rogue' and may mean they need to provide training to ensure employees think twice before exposing their employer.
Claimants may now be more willing to try to direct their case towards the employer in circumstances when previously they may not have done so.
Mr Mohamud entered the Morrisons premises, and asked Mr Khan (the employee) if it was possible to print some documents stored on a USB stick. Mr Khan responded in an abusive manner, including using racist language. Mr Mohamud left and was followed by Mr Khan, who told him not to return to the petrol station. Mr Khan then attacked Mr Mohamud, punching and kicking him repeatedly. Mr Mohamud brought a claim against Morrisons on the basis of vicarious liability. The Supreme Court has now overturned the Court of Appeal decision, finding unanimously that Morrisons was liable for Mr Khan’s actions. Lord Toulson, giving the lead judgment in the Supreme Court, did not consider that Mr Khan “metaphorically took off his uniform” when he pursued Mr Mohamud out of the petrol station and attacked him.