Vicarious liability – the Supreme Court brings employers some comfort
The Supreme Court has recently handed down two judgments on an employer’s vicarious liability for the actions of an employee in one case and a self-employed doctor in the other.
No vicarious liability for data breach
Employers will be relieved at the Supreme Court’s decision in Morrisons v various claimants that Morrisons was not vicariously liable for a major data breach by a rogue employee whose express intention was to cause the company financial and reputational harm. Mr Skelton, an internal auditor, had disclosed payroll details of nearly 100,000 employees on the internet. There was no financial loss, but over 5,000 employees had brought damages claims for distress.
The Supreme Court clarified that, for vicarious liability to arise, the wrongful conduct had to be so closely connected to acts that the employee was authorised to do, it might be fairly and properly be regarded as done by the employee while acting in the ordinary course of their employment. In this case, the disclosure of data on the internet was not part of the employee’s functions or field of activities. The Court also confirmed that it was also not enough that the employee’s role gave them the opportunity to commit the wrongful act and the fact that there was a close temporal link and an unbroken chain of causation did not of itself satisfy the close connection test. Also, it considered that the employee’s motive was highly relevant particularly in a case such as this where he was pursuing a personal vendetta.
Morrisons was helped by the fact that it was itself not in breach of any data protection obligations. This emphasises how important it is for employers to ensure they have robust procedures in place to ensure compliance particularly since GDPR came into effect otherwise they will be subject to significant fines and compensation. Going forwards, courts will look at what the data controller has done to prevent data security breaches and in this era of mandatory notification businesses will need to look carefully at the measures they take to mitigate against the risks including taking out insurance to protect themselves.
No vicarious liability for sexual assault
The Supreme Court also held that the employer was not vicariously liable in Various claimants v Barclays Bank for the actions of a rogue doctor who sexually assaulted over 100 female job applicants sent for a pre-employment medical check. This Court found that the doctor was genuinely self-employed on his own account as the examinations took place in his home, he was not paid a retainer and had his own portfolio of clients of which Barclays was one. His relationship with Barclays was not akin to an employment relationship but that of independent contractor.
This is a harsh decision for the victims as they have no remedy as the doctor had died in 2009 and the estate had been distributed. However, it confirms beyond doubt that vicarious liability does not apply to the relationship with a genuinely self-employed person.
For more information, please contact Emma Bartlett.
IBA Annual Conference
The IBA heads to Miami for its 2022 Annual Conference bringing together thousands hundreds of lawyers from around the world.
Joint Venture Opportunities
Join our panel where we will discuss various topics including Joint Venture structuring and Partner procurement.
Mind your business: Safeguarding your business against loss of mental capacity
Practical considerations to safeguard your business against loss of mental capacity.
FT Wealth quotes Sarah Anticoni on forum shopping
"Being the first to file for divorce is not a foolproof way of securing an English hearing"
What can UK investors interested in Life Sciences learn from their more experienced, including US, counterparts?
The recent tie-up between Canary Wharf and Kadans demonstrates the enthusiasm to access the lucrative UK life sciences market.
Helen Coward writes for Tax Journal on the main purpose test for SDLT group relief
Mainly ignored? The main purpose test for SDLT group relief
The Ayes have it - Collateral Warranties can be a ‘Construction Contract’
The Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case of Abbey Healthcare (Mill Hill) Limited v Simply Construct (UK) LLP
Charles Russell Speechlys advises Caretech Holdings PLC on its proposed £870.3 million take private
Charles Russell Speechlys is advising the independent board of Caretech Holdings PLC, in its take private sale to Amalfi Bidco Limited.
Charles Russell Speechlys advising Battery Ventures on the sale of SPT Labtech for £650 million.
Battery Ventures has raised over $9 billion to invest in software and services, enterprise infrastructure, and much more around the world.
Windrush Day 2022 – supporting access to justice
Charles Russell Speechlys is proud to continue supporting survivors of the Windrush scandal in their fight for justice.
The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022: Landlords and developers beware serious sanctions for non-compliance
The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 8 February 2022 and will come into force on 30 June 2022.
EG quotes Emma Preece on the Picturehouse and BNY Mellon rent arrears cases
“The case is being closely watched by landlords and tenants alike as the impact of the pandemic lives on in the commercial property sector”
Charles Russell Speechlys has advised long-standing client Stonegate on a series A investment into Peckwater Brands
Stonegate is one of the largest pub companies in the UK with a rich portfolio that covers over 4,500 sites.
Pro bono support for major office premises move for charity in Stoke-on-Trent
Emmaus entities provide safe homes, community support and meaningful work to formerly homeless people across the UK.
Financier Worldwide quotes Rachel Warren on the UK’s Economic Crime Act
Evaluating the UK’s Economic Crime Act
Julia Cox and Felicity Chapman write for International Adviser on the rise of pre-nups in the UK
Julia Cox and Felicity Chapman write for International Adviser on the rise of pre-nups
Property Patter: Reasonable Endeavours
What does it mean to use ‘best’, ‘all’ or ‘reasonable’ endeavours?
Could the UK’s Life Sciences Vision be restricted by its Immigration Policy?
We explore some of the visa options that may be open to businesses in the sector and their relative pros and cons.
Joshua Green writes for Spear's Magazine on Wagatha Christie’s lessons for HNWs
Wagatha Christie’s lessons for HNWs
Stephanie Bonnello writes for the Practical Law Dispute Resolution blog on witness evidence
When are witness summaries permitted instead of witness statements and when should material be struck out from a witness statement?