So says the English Court of Appeal in the combined decision in Weddall v Barchester Healthcare Ltd and Wallbank v Wallbank Fox Designs Ltd, [2012] EWCA Civ 25. Vicarious liability may be found where the intentional act is ‘closely connected’ to employment, for example where it is a spontaneous reaction to an instruction.

That was the case in Wallbank, where the defendant’s managing director (and sole shareholder) pointed out to a factory worker that he had made an error and instructed him to try again with his assistance. The employee grabbed his boss’s face and threw him 12 feet, causing injuries. Pill LJ was of the view that while it was going too far to say that a violent reaction to instruction was inevitably an act in the course of employment, it would be unfair to deprive the victim of a remedy where his injuries resulted from a reaction to a lawful instruction. In Wallbank, the injuries were sufficiently closely connected to employment that the employer ought to be vicariously liable for them.

Different story in Weddall, where the deputy manager of a care home was assaulted by a junior employee who had been asked to come in to help during another employee’s absence, turned up drunk and clocked the deputy manager. Here, the violence was ‘no more than a pretext for an act of violence unconnected with work as a health assistant’.

[Link available here].