Broom v Morgan [1953] 1 QB 597

Employer’s vicarious liability for personal injury caused by an employee who is himself immune from suit.


Ms. Broom was employed as the helper of a beer and wine house, of which her husband, Mr. Broom, was employed as the manager. Ms. Broom fell down through a trap that her husband was responsible for keeping closed, sustaining injuries as a result. Ms. Broom sued for injuries due to the negligence of her husband, but the courts held that, under statute, a husband cannot be held liable in tort against his wife. She then sued the employer as vicariously responsible for the negligence of her husband. 


The question arose as to whether a negligent employee’s immunity from tortious liability towards an injured party precluded the employer from being held vicariously liable for the negligence of said employee.


The Court held that the fact that a person has no right of action against an employee by law in respect of a tort does not preclude the vicarious liability of the employer if the employee’s negligent act was conducted within the scope of his employment. In this case, the policy reason the rule concerning tortious liability of the husband was to discourage litigation between spouses; it does not follow that an employer can benefit from this same immunity. In particular, Lord Denning, explained the rationale of vicarious liability as being: “[the master] takes the benefit of the work when it is carefully done, and he must take the liability of it when it is negligently done.” (p. 607) Thus, even if the employee is immune from suit, the employer is not absolved from vicarious liability for the injury. Accordingly, the employer was held vicariously liable for the negligence of Mr. Broom in causing the injuries of Mrs. Broom.

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