In a ground-breaking legal case, supermarket chain Morrison’s was held liable for an assault on a customer that had been carried out by one of it’s employees.
The court ruled that Morrison’s was “vicariously liable” for the attack on Ahmed Mohamud in 2008. Mr Mohamud had stopped at a petrol station and asked the attendant to print some documents on a USB drive as a favour, but Mr Khan had become abusive and used a racial slur. He then followed Mr Mohamud to his car and subjected him to a “brutal attack involving punches and kicks, while Mr Mohamud was curled up on the floor of the petrol station forecourt.”
This landmark ruling potentially has far-reaching consequences, since Mr Khan’s employer agreed to pay damages – though Khan himself was sacked. It opens up all employers to the charge of vicarious liability, where they bear some responsibility for actions carried out by their employees while they are at work.
The Supreme Court nuanced the existing law on vicarious liability, determining that employees who commit crimes at work are not only acting for personal reasons and are therefore not solely liable. The crux of this particular case was that the criminal actions were, broadly, connected to the employee’s work role. “In this case it was Mr Khan’s job to attend to customers and respond to their enquiries. His abusive response to Mr Mohamud was inexcusable, but interacting with customers was within the scope of his job,” one legal correspondent explained.
Mr Mohamud suffered head injuries that he said led to epilepsy. He died in 2012 from an illness not related to the attack. His family continued with the legal action following his death.
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