In April 2019, a High Court judge decided that Cancer Research UK (CRUK) was not liable for their employee's injury sustained at a work Christmas party when a colleague dropped her on the dancefloor. The matter is now going to the Court of Appeal.

Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK

Ms Shelbourne argued that CRUK, as organisers of the Christmas party, should have foreseen that the provision of alcohol could lead to some people behaving inappropriately; and as such CRUK should have put extensive risk assessment measures in place.

This argument was rejected in the County Court and the High Court, which held that CRUK's risk assessments had been adequate.

It was found in both courts that CRUK had taken all reasonable measures in the planning and operation of the Christmas party, and the duty of care that existed at the time had not been breached.

The latest update on this case is that Ms Shelbourne has now been granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

What Is the Current Position?

At work events, particularly where alcohol is served, an assessment of the degree of risk needs to be undertaken. The level of risk may vary considerably from one employer to another and from one event to another. The level of risk will dictate the nature of any precautions that need to be taken.

In Ms Shelbourne's case, the High Court commented that the level of risk assessment she was advocating would not be regarded as socially appropriate to impose on the organisers of any Christmas party, regardless of the circumstances.