In O’Connell v 1st Class Security  QDC 100 liability was found against a bouncer and his employer for the use of unreasonable force, which led to personal injuries being suffered by a drunk male.
Mr O’Connell had been evicted from a hostel at night due to his drunken behavior. He then verbally abused a bouncer whilst standing outside, but the bouncer was not threatened. Two Police officers arrived and arrested Mr O’Connell, however he resisted arrest. The evidence was the Police had control of the situation.
The bouncer has then rushed in, and pushing one of the police officers aside, grabbed Mr O’Connell despite at least two requests by the Police to stop. The bouncer has then taken Mr O’Connell down with a forceful hip throw and has intentionally landed on top of Mr O’Connell. Mr O’Connell suffered a fracture of the right leg which required surgery and insertion of a rod and screws to stabilise.
The bouncer’s liability for unreasonable force was in circumstances where he was much larger than Mr O’Connell, the Police had the situation under control, the Police asked him to stop intervening, and there was no need to forcefully throw and land on Mr O’Connell who was drunk. Whilst the Court accepted that it was reasonable to foresee a person resisting arrest may be injured, it was not reasonably foreseeable that a person would be taken down and suffer a significant leg fracture.
The bouncer attempted to rely on a provision of the Civil Liability Act whereby criminals are not awarded compensation for injuries sustained in certain circumstances. The Court found again the provision did not apply because the bouncer used unreasonable force and in excess of what the situation required.
The bouncer’s employer was found to be vicariously liable, that is liable for the conduct of the bouncer in injuring Mr O’Connell. The Court restated accepted law, that an employer will have liability for the unauthorised intentional acts of an employee, where the acts are so connected with what the employee was authorised to do, that the act is considered as a part of the employee’s authorised duties. In this case, the bouncer intervened in the arrest as part of his duties in protecting the premises and was therefore considered essentially an improper way of conducting his authorised duties.
This case shows that a person may have liability for damages as a result of unreasonable force when carrying out activities which are done apparently in pursuit of their employment. Their employer can also have liability, even if the act was not actually authorised by the employer. For persons in security related jobs, in particular, proper training of their obligations is a must.