Legal Updates

Employment Law:  Employers’ Vicarious Liability

In Crosby v Regency Security Services Ltd (2006), the defendant, a security company (plus its insurers) successfully defended a claim against them.  The court rejected a claim for damages made by the claimant against the defendant, Regency Security Services Ltd, for negligence. Regency Security Services Ltd, were the employer of a door supervisor.

At the Hippodrome in Colchester back in February 2002, Mr Crosby was seriously assaulted by another guest in the Nightclub where he was in a queue (outside the Nightclub) waiting to buy a ticket. Apparently, the assailant alleged that Mr Crosby had been involved in an attack on him the previous Boxing Day.  Mr Crosby denied this allegation saying in his defence that he was trying to stop that fight.

They were both informed by the head doorman that neither one of them would be admitted unless they “calmed down” and sorted out their differences. They both agreed to behave. As soon as they entered the Nightclub, Mr Crosby was seriously assaulted. The employees of the defendant reacted swiftly to prevent further injury and soon afterwards gave information to the police which enabled them to arrest the assailant.  He was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and sentenced to four years imprisonment. Mr Crosby submitted a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and was awarded £5,765 compensation.

Mr Crosby brought an action against the defendant in the courts. The defendant argued that the doorman's actions should be judged objectively on the basis of the state of his knowledge at the time, on the doorstep of a busy Nightclub, and on the basis of the reasonableness of his decision.

It was contended that Mr Crosby had to prove causation along with forseeability in order to succeed in his case against the defendant. For instance, the attack was unprovoked and could not have been foreseen by Mr Crosby otherwise he would not have entered the Nightclub himself.  Therefore, the head doorman could not have foreseen the attack as he would not have admitted the assailant to the Nightclub. The defendant contended that:-

§        There were no previously reported cases in which a situation like this had been brought before the courts.

§        There is no general duty to prevent a third party from causing damage to another even if there is a high degree of foresight.

§        In Smith v Littlewood Organisation Limited (1987) the Court had cited " ... the general perception that we ought not to be held responsible in law for the deliberate wrongdoing of others" to support this assertion. The exceptions to this are likely to be in special circumstances (such as in Home Office v Dorset Yacht Club Limited (1970)). Hence, against this background the court should consider whether it would be "fair, just and reasonable" to impose a duty of care in this case" on the defendant.

§        Potentially there could be adverse ramifications upon those who provide and maintain security at premises including nightclubs and public houses if the courts were to find a duty in this case.

It was held that the defendant did not breach any duty of care and the head doorman’s decision to admit Mr Crosby and the assailant was reasonable in the circumstances.

Comment: Insurers should take heed when insuring nightclubs and security firms because of the risk of incurring liability.

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© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.




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