Mr Weddall was a Deputy Manager of a care home in Norwich. Mr Marsh was a Health Assistant at the care home, and he had a previous conviction for assault. The two men did not get on. One evening in 2006 Mr Weddall was on duty when one of the nightshift employees called in sick. Mr Weddall called Mr Marsh at home to see if he wanted another shift. Unbeknown to Mr Weddall, Mr Marsh had had a bad day and by 6pm was drunk. Mr Marsh thought that Mr Weddall was mocking him.
After the call, Mr Marsh rang back, saying that he intended to resign. He then rode to the care home on his bicycle, and when he saw Mr Weddall, attacked him. The first judge found that it was “an utterly unprovoked attack, very violent, and that no words of any significance were spoken . . . before the blows were struck.” The Health Assistant was pulled off the Deputy Manager by another employee. Mr Marsh apologised and then fled. In the Crown Court he pleaded guilty to the attack and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. Mr Weddall sued the company for his injuries.
Was the the care home ordered to pay compensation?
No. Lord Justice Pill concluded that the violence was the employee’s response to a routine request and that the attack was an independent venture, separate and distinct from the employment as a Health Assistant at a care home i.e. the assault did not happen in the course of the employment. So, the judge concluded that the assault was not the responsibility of the employer, and so Mr Weddall didn’t receive any compensation from his employer.
Truth Legal’s Comments
We think this was an unfair result because the assault occurred at work and as a result of a work situation. Although this is an unhelpful case for people assaulted by their colleagues at work, other decided cases suggest that suing an employer for violence carried out by a colleague is possible.
See the full case here.