Door staff ‘liability nightmare’ after Court of Appeal’s decision in Hawley v Luminar

July 2006

Live event industry

The Court of Appeal has followed the recent trend in extending vicarious liability for employees in the case of Hawley v Luminar (2006). It now seems that pubs and clubs may be responsible for the actions of door supervisors even if they do not directly employ them. It is already established law that if an employee, acting in the course of their employment, injures another, even if that employee’s actions go well beyond what they are trained or employed for for, their employers may well be held vicariously liable for their acts and will have to meet any consequential award of damages (see Mattis v Pollock t/a Flamingos Nightclub Times Law Report 16th July 2003 and archive Music Law Updates December 2003). In Hawley v Luminar the door supervisor was employed by an outside contractor but the court upheld the original judgment that as he had been seconded to club owner Luminar, Luminar had responsibility for his actions even though his immediate employer had the right to hire and fire and also paid his wages. In reaching this conclusion the court carefully considered who had control – and therefore responsibility for – the doorman’s actions. It found that Luminar had day-to-day responsibility. Simply relying on the fact that doorstaff hold a Security Industry Authority licence or that the provision of security staff has been contracted out does not absolve licensees and owners from their responsibilities for their actions and the potential legal liability resulting from this. In particular licensees and club owners operating with this sort of arrangement should ensure that they have proper insurance to cover any potential liabilities.

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