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French courts find employer liable for employee’s death during sex on a business trip

The Paris Court of Appeal has recently found a company liable for the death of an employee on a business trip who died of a heart attack while having sex with a stranger (decision no. 16/08787).

The decision may seem alarming for employers at first glance since the employee’s death had no obvious link to his employment (as a security technician), and was the direct result of his decision to have sex with a stranger. The Company had argued that the employee was acting completely outside his duties when he died.

The Court of Appeal however found that under existing French legal principles, any accident occurring on a business trip is deemed to be related to employment unless it can be shown that the employee is doing something that is not an activity undertaken in everyday life. Here, the Court found that just like eating or taking a shower, sex is an everyday activity.

This judgment is not surprising when looked at in context of previous decisions in France. In 2001, the French High Court had determined that any accident occurring on a business trip is presumed to be an “industrial accident” regardless of whether it happens when the employee is undertaking work, or daily activities.  

The burden is on the employer to show the employee was not performing an everyday activity when the accident happened. This reasoning was followed recently when a company was found liable for the death of an employee on a business trip who was injured at 3am in a nightclub (Cass. Soc. 12 Octobre 2017 No. 16-22.481). Whilst there may be extreme occasions when a particular activity is not deemed an everyday activity, it will be an increasingly difficult argument for employers to make.

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