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Can a Personal Injury Compensation Claim Be Made Against the Employer of an Individual Who Injures a Customer?

on Monday, 12 September 2022.

The answer to this question is yes - but it depends on the circumstances. There has been much legal case law in this area. One such case was Mr Mohamud v WM Morrisons Supermarkets Plc.

Customer Verbal and Physical Assault By an Employee

Mr Mohamud was a customer at a Morrisons petrol station.

Mr Khan was employed by Morrisons to work at the petrol station. His job was to see that the petrol pumps and the kiosk were kept in good running order and to serve customers.

The Judge accepted in full Mr Mohamud's version of events which was as follows.

On 15 March 2008 Mr Mohamud, whilst at the petrol station, decided to enquire whether it would be possible to print some documents from a USB stick which he was carrying. Mr Khan, who was behind the counter, replied by saying "We don't do such shit".

Mr Mohamud protested at being spoken to in that manner. Using foul, racist and threatening language, Mr Khan ordered Mr Mohamud to leave. Mr Mohamud did so. He returned to his car by the air pump. He was followed by Mr Khan.

Mr Mohamud got into his car and switched on the engine, but before he could drive off Mr Khan opened the front passenger door and told him in threatening words never to come back. Mr Mohamud told Mr Khan to get out of the car and shut the passenger door. Instead, Mr Khan punched Mr Mohamud in the head.

Mr Mohamud switched off the engine and got out in order to walk round and close the passenger door. At this point Mr Khan again punched him in the head, knocked him to the floor and subjected him to a serious attack.

In carrying out the attack Mr Khan ignored instructions from his supervisor, who came on the scene at some stage and tried to stop Mr Khan from behaving as he did.

Employer Found Not Liable By Judge

Whilst the Judge expressed great sympathy for Mr Mohamud, the Judge concluded that Morrisons were not vicariously liable for Mr Khan's unprovoked assault. Basically the Judge considered that what Mr Khan did went beyond what he was employed to do.

Court of Appeal Finds Employer Not Liable

Mr Mohamud appealed the Judge's decision in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Judge that Morrisons should not be liable. The Court of Appeal therefore dismissed Mr Mohamud's appeal.

The Supreme Court Finds Employer Vicariously Responsible

Mr Mohamud's case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court considered two matters.

1. What functions or 'field of activities' had been entrusted by Morrisons to Mr Khan, or, in everyday language, what was the nature of his job?

Mr Khan's job was to attend to customers and to respond to their enquiries. The Supreme Court considered that Mr Khan's conduct in answering Mr Mohamud's request in a foulmouthed way and ordering him to leave was inexcusable but within the 'field of activities' assigned to him.

2. Was there sufficient connection between the position in which Mr Khan was employed and his wrongful conduct, to make it right for Morrisons to be held liable under the principle of social justice?

The Supreme Court considered that there was such sufficient connection. The Supreme Court did not consider it right to regard Mr Khan as having metaphorically taken off his Morrisons uniform the moment he stepped from behind the counter. The Supreme Court felt that Mr Khan was following up on what he had said to Mr Mohamud and that it was all a seamless episode. When Mr Khan followed Mr Mohamud back to his car and opened the front passenger door, Mr Khan again told Mr Mohamud in threatening words that he was never to come back to the petrol station. The Supreme Court said that this was not something personal between them; it was an order to keep away from Morrisons' premises, which Mr Khan reinforced by violence. The Supreme Court said that this was a gross abuse by Mr Khan of his position, but it was in connection with the business in which he was employed to serve customers. Morrisons entrusted him with that position and the Supreme Court considered that it was just that Morrisons should be held responsible for Mr Khan's actions.

Ultimately, therefore, Mr Mohamud's appeal to the Supreme Court was successful and so he won his claim against Morrisons. The Supreme Court decided that Morrisons were vicariously responsible for the actions of Mr Khan.

Specialist Personal Injury Claim Solicitors

Augustines Injury Law are specialist personal injury claim solicitors. We deal with all kinds of personal injury cases, including vicarious liability cases like Mr Mohamud's.

For free impartial advice, please contact Dan Thompson on 0117 314 5275 or by email at dthompson@vwv.co.uk or alternatively, complete the form below.

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