UKSC pending: Vicarious liability claims + the reputation of the employee

Does an employer, when defending a vicarious liability action, owe a duty of care to the employee who is alleged to have committed the actions for which the employer is vicariously liable, to protect the employee’s reputation?

Examples may include the position of a hospital employing a doctor or a church employing a priest. In the current appeal hearing, the employees were police officers. The officers contended that the Commissioner’s admission of liability and his public apology (in respect of the officers actions during an arrest) unfairly branded them as abusive thugs, which resulted in their being required to undergo the stress of a criminal trial and damage to their prospects of promotion (in the earlier decision referred to below at [7]).

The United Kingdom Supreme Court is presently considering that issue in Commissioner of Police v James-Bowen & Ors, an appeal from James-Bowen & Ors v Commissioner of Police [2016] EWCA Civ 1217.  In the EWCA decision, all three judges of the court had agreed that the officers’ claim for economic and reputational harm based on a breach of a duty of care at common law should be allowed to go to trial so that the important issues to which it gives rise can be fully argued and determined on the basis of the court’s findings of fact. The Commissioner has appealed that decision. Oral argument is taking place on 6 & 7 March 2018.

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