Court success: no breach of duty after employee assaulted

  • Northumberland County Council faced a breach of duty claim from an employee who was injured after being assaulted at a horticultural skills unit
  • The claimant alleged the council had breached its duty by not providing her with sufficient training about how to reduce the risk of an assault taking place
  • Dismissing the claim, the judge found that the incident was unforeseeable, and could not have been prevented with further training

Northumberland County Council has successfully defended a breach of duty claim after a judge ruled that further training could not have prevented an assault on an employee.

Background

The claimant was employed to provide care and support to individuals who attended a horticultural skills unit offering therapeutic activities.

The claimant noticed a service user moving towards the perimeter fence. Because the user was hard of hearing, she tapped him gently on the shoulder to attract his attention and direct him back to the unit.

Without warning, the service user struck out at the claimant and threw a mug at her face, causing facial and psychological injuries. The claimant presented a claim on the basis that her employer had breached its duties to her by not providing sufficient training about the risk of such an incident occurring.

The case proceeded to a trial, where the claimant conceded in evidence that the incident had occurred very quickly and without warning, and that she had been trained in intervention techniques. However, she asserted that she had not received sufficient training, as she had not been trained in dealing with an assault coming from the side.

Decision

The judge decided that it was not foreseeable that the service user would act in a violent manner (there had been no history of violent behaviour in the 11 years he had been attending the unit), and that the incident was unforeseeable.

The judge concluded that the training provided was adequate and that as the claimant had not perceived a risk of violence when the incident occurred, further training would not have prevented it happening.

The claim was dismissed.

Commentary

This claim serves as a helpful reminder that incidents of violence can occur without a breach of duty, and victims are not automatically entitled to compensation.

DAC Beachcroft represented the defendant in this claim.