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Is an employer liable for the criminal act of a third party?

Adlington v Dominos Pizza Enterprises Limited [2016] QDC 84

Sheridan DCJ

15 April 2016

Background

Mr Adlington was a pizza delivery driver who was assisting the store manager with closing up one evening. He was assaulted by some youths when putting the rubbish out. The store manager was present.

There had been an initial confrontation between the youths and the Plaintiff and his manager, but the youths then dispersed to across the road. When the Plaintiff and his manager then went to the back of the store, the Plaintiff yelled at the youths. Some of the youths then came back and assaulted the Plaintiff.

Liability

Mr Adlington alleged that his employer was liable because he knew there had previously been other assaults and troubles with youths in the vicinity of the store. The Plaintiff alleged that a security guard ought to have been provided. He also said Dominos had failed to train staff on how to respond to criminal acts of third parties.

Judgement

The Judge found that the cost of employing a security guard was not a reasonable response required by the employer to the foreseeable risk of injury. He considered the presence of two staff members to be sufficient.
It was also found that even if training had included clear instruction on how to respond to such situations, Mr Adlington would still have acted in the way he did, ie. the training would not have prevented Mr Adlington's spontaneous reaction of yelling at the youths.

The Judge further found that had the employer been liable, Mr Adlington would have had his damages reduced by 80% for his contributory negligence.

Discussion

Although Mr Adlington failed in his claim, there will be situations where there is a foreseeable risk of injury from third parties in the course of an employee's employment. Employers need to assess those risks and take appropriate measures to protect employees so far as is reasonable.