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Employee alleges negligence after shop robbery

At a glance

  • In this example, negligence alleged for failure to carry out a suitable risk assessment and failure to supply adequate security measures
  • The defendant’s security measures were not found to have fallen below those that were standard for the industry
  • However, the defendant was deprived of 20% of its costs for its conduct of the litigation

The case of: Nicholls v Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Ltd 11.07.13

In 2007 the claimant, then aged 18, started working for the defendant as a cashier in one of its betting shops in Coventry. One dark evening, two men wearing balaclavas burst into the shop. One aimed a gun at the claimant and demanded all the money from the safe. Petrified, the claimant opened the safe, gave the money, and the robbers fled.

The claimant alleged she consequently sustained psychiatric injury. She claimed damages from the defendant, alleging negligence, breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the 1992 Regulations) and breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the 1999 Regulations). Damages of £9,000 were agreed subject to liability.

Broker Top Tips

• Employers are required by law to carry out a risk assessment as part of the wider health and safety policy for the business

• The law requires employers to consider carefully, and then deal with, any health and safety risks for people working alone. The Health and Safety Executive leaflet Working Alone provides more information

The claimant’s allegations included failure, under the 1999 Regulations, to carry out a suitable risk assessment, and failure, under the 1992 Regulations, to arrange for adequate lighting outside the shop. She also alleged the defendant negligently failed to operate the magnetic lock to keep the front door locked.

The trial judge held that the defendant was liable for failing to carry out a proper risk assessment and failing to formulate a suitable policy for the circumstances in which the magnetic lock should be operated. The defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeal held that although the defendant had failed to produce a risk assessment, an organisation such as the defendant’s would be unlikely not to have carried one out. In any event, expert evidence showed the shop was in an area at low risk of robbery and had no history of violent incidents or known threats.

With regard to the magnetic lock, these were installed for staff to operate during times of perceived risk. There was no basis for ruling that the defendant should have instigated a policy for operating the magnetic door for other purposes, such as for staff to vet persons seeking entry after dark. If the defendant should have operated the magnetic lock after dark, there was no reason why they should not have operated it during daylight hours, for robbers did not limit robbery to hours of darkness.

There was no evidence of any enhanced threat at this particular shop, and the defendant was not in breach of their duty by leaving the decision to operate the lock to the manager. The appeal was allowed.

Please click here for full judgment.

Image © Getty

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