Permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal refused in Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK

29th October 2019

Mathew White

In the case of Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK [2019] EWHC 842 (QB), Matthew White represented the defendant, Cancer Research UK. At first instance and on first appeal it was held that the employer was not vicariously liable for the actions of a worker who lifted and dropped another worker on the dancefloor at a work Christmas party. The claimant sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. Permission to appeal has been refused. In refusing permission Leggatt LJ said:-

“The appellant’s case that Mr Bielik’s wrongful conduct in assaulting and/or negligently inuring the claimant at the Christmas party was sufficiently connected with his work as a visiting scientist to render the defendant vicariously liable for his conduct is founded on the suggestion that Mr Bielik’s attendance at the party was one of the activities entrusted to him by the defendant as part of his role. In circumstances where, on the facts found, attendance at the party, which was organised by volunteers, was entirely voluntary and open to those workers who chose to buy tickets and their invited guests, this suggestion is unreal.”

Two lesser points are worth mentioning. Firstly, permission to appeal was also refused in relation to the claim in straight negligence. That is less noteworthy because the decision on this point was a decision on the facts. Secondly, because of the way that appeals to the Court of Appeal now work, the on-paper refusal of permission to appeal is the end of the line for the claimant. There is no longer a right to an oral hearing to reconsider permission.

For a longer look at the facts of the case and the decisions made at first instance and on first appeal, see here