Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

No more staff parties?

Following a recent compensation claim for £300,000 against Cancer Research UK by one of its employees during a staff party, employers may need to review the potential health and safety risks at social events, and think twice before throwing office parties.

During a staff Christmas party in December 2012, Sandra Shelbourne, an animal technician for the charity, was carried by another employee who then dropped her, causing Mrs Shelbourne serious back injuries.

Legal opinion

This is an interesting case as it looks at when an employer may become vicariously liable for the negligent acts and omissions of an employee.

The high court upheld the county court’s decision to dismiss Mrs Shelbourne’s claim and held that Cancer Research UK was not vicariously liable, perhaps to the relief of many employers as staff parties can be an effective way to boost team morale.

It is noted however the fact-sensitive nature of such cases and employees and employers are to remember that the closer the link between an employee’s wrongful actions and their work duties, the more likely the employer will be held vicariously liable.


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