Mohamud (claimant) v WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc (respondent) [2016] UKSC 11 considered whether an employer can be held vicariously liable for the errant conduct of an employee who attacks a customer.  The claimant entered the respondent's premises and asked whether he could print documents.  Mr Khan (the employee) responded in a racist and threatening manner and attacked the claimant.  The claimant brought proceedings against the respondent on the basis that it was vicariously liable for the actions of its employee, Mr Kahn.  The Court unanimously allowed the claimant's appeal and held the respondent vicariously liable for its employee's actions. 

Lord Toulson restated the "close connection" test laid down in Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2001] UKHL 22, in terms of a twofold test; the first question being what functions or "field of activities" were entrusted by the employer to the employee and second, whether there was a sufficient connection between the position in which he was employed and his wrongful conduct to make it right for the employer to be liable under the principle of 'social justice'. 

The Court's elaboration of the "close connection test" provides guidance for New Zealand courts dealing with similar cases. Prior to Mohamud, the test gave no guidance on the type or degree of connection required.  The Court expanded on the approach by providing two stages to the test.  Arguably, employers could be held liable for the actions of their employees, committed during working hours, whilst in the role they were employed to do.  Applying Mohamud, if an employee acts in a way that is in connection with the business he works for, whilst undertaking the job he was employed to do, in a role entrusted to him by his employer, then the employer can be vicariously liable for the employee abusing that positon.

See Court decision here.