The Supreme Court have shaken up the law of vicarious liability (again) in Mr A M Mohamud (in substitution for Mr A Mohamud (deceased) v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc [2016] UKSC 11.

This time the Court extended the ‘close connection’ test in a case where a Morrisons’ service station employee abused and punched a member of the public on the premises, reversing the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Lord Toulson, giving the leading judgment, stated that he did not: “consider that it is right to regard [the employee] as having metaphorically taken off his uniform the moment he stepped from behind the counter. He was following up on what he had said to the claimant. It was a seamless episode… when Mr Khan followed the claimant back to his car and opened the front passenger door, he again told the claimant in threatening words that he was never to come back to petrol station. This was not something personal between them; it was an order to keep away from his employer’s premises, which he reinforced by violence. In giving such an order he was purporting to act about his employer’s business. It was a gross abuse of his position, but it was in connection with the business in which he was employed to serve customers. His employers entrusted him with that position and it is just that as between them and the claimant, they should be held responsible for their employee’s abuse of it” (see § 47).
The judgment has potentially massive implications for customer-facing employment roles and employers may face greater legal responsibility for the wrongdoing of employees who go on their own ‘frolics’.
Pre-Mohamud, the law required a strong link between the tasks of the job and the risk of the wrongdoing. Apparently not such a strong link is required any more, or at least where the wrongdoing is part of a ‘seamless episode’ on the job.
Worth a read is a sister-judgment (Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10) also made today, where although the wrongdoer was not an employee (he was a prisoner) vicarious liability was established on the facts (in line with the principles of previous case law).
I will post some more detail on these cases and the legal background to them shortly. Thanks to Legal Cheek for drawing my attention to them. Follow them here.

Posted by Ben Amunwa

Founder and editor of Lawmostly.com. Ben is a business and public law barrister with the 36 Group. He gives expert legal advice on employment, immigration and commercial disputes to a wide range of clients.

2 Comments

  1. […] March 2016: UK Supreme Court finds Morrisons responsible for racist abuse by a rogue employee and conclude that employers may be liable for […]

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  2. […] March 2016: UK Supreme Court finds Morrisons responsible for racist abuse by a rogue employee and conclude that employers may be liable for […]

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