Responsibility For Security

December 2003

Live Concert Industry

There would be a presumption that the employer of a security guard who deliberately assaulted a member of the public attending a event would be responsible for the security guard’s actions unless it was clear that the guard’s actions were wholly unrelated to his activities as a security guard – for example, if the guard knew the person assaulted and the act was a personal vendetta against that person.

In Mattis -v- Pollock (t/a) Flamingos Nightclub (The Times Law Report 16 July 2003) the Court of Appeal held that a club doorman who stabbed a person in the vicinity of the club in revenge for an earlier violent attack on him in the club was acting in the course of his employment and so the club owner was vicariously liable for the doorman’s actions.
The doorman was involved in a fight inside the club. The knifing happened after the doorman had gone home to get a knife and then attacked the victim some 100 metres away from the club. The victim was seriously injured. The doorman was convicted in a criminal court for grievous bodily harm (GBH) and sentenced to 8 years in prison. This civil action found that the club owner was liable for the actions of the doorman and so the victim could claim damages against the club. The doorman was not registered and was expected to maintain order and discipline and to perform his duties in an aggressive and intimidating manner. This meant that the doorman was violent both on the premises and off them and thus the stabbing was directly linked to earlier activities inside the club when the doorman was on duty. Even though the doorman’s actions were motivated by revenge the club owners were liable in law for his actions.
This case follows on from a recent case where the police were held liable for an assault by an off-duty policeman on a third party even though at the time of the assault the police officer had borrowed a police van when he wasn’t working. Earlier cases such as Daniels -v- Whetstone Entertainments (1962) established that employers had a liability for door staff’s actions whilst they were in the course of their employment.

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