With a backdrop of growing concern at violence in the workplace against those in customer-facing roles, the Keoghs Corporate Risks Leisure & Hospitality team has successfully defended an assault claim following an armed robbery. The judgment provides an important guide as to what is considered reasonable in both deterring crime and protecting colleagues.
The case concerns an employee claimant who worked in one of the defendant’s betting shop branches. She would deal with customers throughout the day and man the store counter, often alone. The claimant was the lone-working employee when a masked man, armed with a knife, entered the branch and approached the counter, taking money before leaving. She submitted a claim in relation to psychological injuries suffered as a result of the incident as well as lost earnings.
Liability was denied and maintained on the basis that the claimant was appropriately trained in dealing with armed robbery situations, with appropriate and proportionate measures in place to deter such situations and protect the claimant. It was the defendant’s case that there was no more they could have done to prevent such an incident, given the premises was targeted by an individual acting autonomously and with criminal intent. CCTV capturing the incident was retained and the defence was aided by witness evidence from three other employees who were able to explain the processes, systems and training in place at the time of the incident.
At trial DDJ Dodsworth accepted it was the defendant’s duty to put in place reasonable measures, but rejected the claim on the basis that the defendant had in fact done so. It was judged that the company had carefully addressed the risks of crime at this particular branch and set out a clear and measured approach to security.
DDJ Dodsworth also took time to highlight that the site-specific risk assessment and relevant training were also regularly communicated to employees. The judge was ultimately satisfied that the defendant took safety and security extremely seriously.
This is a welcome decision in a claims climate where violence in the workplace is on the rise, exacerbated by the pandemic. This judgment shows that businesses who take steps to deter crime and protect their employees can defend personal injury claims. It also emphasises that a defendant is not required to put in place every possible protective measure, but only those that are reasonable. What is deemed reasonable will depend on the particular circumstances of each case and is not a one size fits all approach. However it is clear that when it comes to security, risk assessing a specific location is a must.
The case was handled by Bethany McNally at Keoghs.
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