Nightclub operators Luminar have been found responsible for an attack by a doorman which left a Southend firefighter with brain damage.

In a case that may have serious implications for the leisure and security industry, and for temporary workers and those employing them, a judge has ruled that Luminar Leisure is "vicariously liable" for the actions of the doorman, Jeffrey Warren. Warren received a two year suspended prison sentence for his attack on David Hawley in August 2000.  He was employed by ASE Security Services who were contracted to provide doormen to Luminar Leisure.

The ruling, issued 10 January 2005, means that Luminar will have to pay substantial compensation to David Hawley, who may never be able to return to fighting fires after the vicious assault. David's claim for compensation has been backed throughout by the Fire Brigades Union. Luminar was refused leave to appeal.

Punched with force and suffered head injury

David (aged 30 at the time) was punched in the face by Warren outside the Chicago Rock Cafe in Southend. He was hit with such force that he fell back, hitting his head on the kerb, suffering a severe head injury from which he has not recovered.

David was out with a group of colleagues from Southend Fire Station in the early hours of 18 August 2000 when they got involved in a confrontation with a group of students. The doormen came out to calm things down and Warren approached David, who held his hands in the air as a gesture of not wanting any more trouble.

Warren punched him so hard in the face, that he fractured his skull, nose and jaw, in addition to knocking him to the pavement.

Injury to the brain

David suffered an injury to the brain which was such that a front section had to be removed. He has since had a metal plate inserted into his head and is due to have further surgery to his face following a recent rhinoplasty. 

David suffers from cognitive impairments including intellect and memory, facial pain, headaches and impaired bladder control.

Luminar had denied liability on the grounds that Warren was employed by ASE Securities and he was neither an employee or temporary deemed employee of Luminar.

In his judgment, issued after a four day court hearing last month at the High Court, Mr Justice Wilkie says: "The control that Luminar had over ASE's employees was such as to make them temporary deemed employees of Luminar for the purposes of vicarious liability. It therefore follows that Luminar is vicariously liable for the conduct of Mr Warren on the 18 August and is liable to Mr Hawley for the injuries caused by Mr Warren's unlawful conduct towards him".

Honor Lamont of trade union law firm Thompsons, commented: "This ruling is very important and a great relief. It means that we can pursue Luminar for compensation for the terrible injuries David suffered at the hands of Warren, and for the loss of his career as a fire fighter. I hope that this ruling will send a message to corporations like Luminar that they cannot hide behind others to avoid their duty of care to customers."This decision represents one of the very few cases in which a worker has been found to be the temporary deemed employee of a person who is not his actual employer.

The case was also against ASE Security Services Ltd, and the security firm's insurers, Faraday Underwriting Ltd. No defence was entered by ASE.