Vicarious Liability - is a football club responsible for dressing room assaults?

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Vicarious Liability - is a football club responsible for dressing room assaults?

Published 12 noviembre 2015

The liability of a professional football club for the actions of its players was considered in the High Court decision in GB v Stoke City Football Club Limited and Peter Fox, handed down on 30 October 2015, at a time when the appeal to the Supreme Court in Mohamud v Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc (DAC Beachcroft Insurance Advisor March 2014) is awaited.

The Claimant was employed by Stoke City as a youth trainee (apprentice footballer) in the 1986-7 and 1987-8 seasons.  He alleged that he was assaulted by Peter Fox, the first team goalkeeper, who smeared Deep Heat on him as a form of punishment for perceived misdemeanour.  The claim was allowed to proceed after a limitation trial, but the Claimant failed to prove that the alleged assaults had occurred and the claim failed.

Having dismissed the claim, the Judge went on to consider the question of whether, if the Claimant had proved that the assaults occurred, the club should be vicariously liable for Mr Fox's actions.  There was no dispute that Mr Fox and the Claimant were employed by the club, but were the assaults so closely connected to their employment that it would be fair and just to hold the club liable?

The club did not confer any duties or powers on Mr Fox, either formally or otherwise, to train, discipline or chastise the trainees and the club did not know of or condone Mr Fox's alleged actions.  The Judge concluded that, if he were to hold the club vicariously liable for a serious assault outside the course of Mr Fox's employment, it could place most if not all sporting organisations and employers in a position where they would be liable for any assault on a trainee by a full-time employee whatever the circumstances.  The Judge viewed this as a step too far on the basis of the current authorities and said that he would not have imposed vicarious liability had the assaults been proved. 

The Supreme Court is due to consider the scope of vicarious liability for assault in Mohamud in the near future and its judgment is awaited with interest.

Authors

David Williams

David Williams

Leeds

+44 (0)113 251 4844

Richard Rowe

Richard Rowe

Birmingham

+44 (0)121 698 5356

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