PwC UK being sued by auditor after ‘pub golf’ brain injury
Posted on 23rd August 2022 at 21:53
Evening work event involved people drinking different drinks at speed in nine pubs, according to claim
PwC’s UK business is being sued by an auditor who claims he suffered a serious head injury after attending a work event that involved an “excessive” drinking game of “pub golf”.
Michael Brockie (28) has brought a personal injury claim against the professional services firm and alleges it owed him a duty of care when he attended the evening event in April 2019. The outing had been organised by a PwC manager in its Reading office to celebrate the end of the “busy season”.
The lawsuit against PwC UK, where partners earned an average of £1 million (€1.18 million) last year, comes as Britain’s largest accounting firms seek to improve their behaviour and culture, and cut down on heavy drinking among staff following a series of scandals.
A partner at EY resigned last year after being fined by a professional body for sexually harassing a female trainee on a work ski trip. Other professional firms have taken steps to reduce the risk of alcohol-fuelled incidents at work events, such as by banning ski trips and designating “sober chaperones”.
According to Mr Brockie’s lawsuit filed at London’s high court, staff had been encouraged to attend the “pub golf” event, which involved visiting nine bars or nightclubs — with each venue representing a “hole” with different designated alcoholic drinks.
Workers were encouraged to down each drink in as few mouthfuls as possible to get the lowest “score” — with scorecards printed and distributed in the office — and the event “encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol”, according to court papers.
Mr Brockie, who was at the time a senior associate in PwC’s audit department, claims he became “so intoxicated” that after 10pm he has no recollection of events and was later found lying in the street after falling.
He suffered a “moderate-severe brain injury” and returned to work about six months after the incident, initially working part-time, according to the claim, which added that he still had “persistent cognitive symptoms”.
He is suing PwC for alleged negligence, claiming provisional damages of more than £200,000 and an order that he be entitled to additional payments in future.
He said the firm was indirectly liable for the negligence of Simon Fradgley, a manager in the audit department who organised the drinks and “failed to take reasonable care for the safety of co-workers”.
Mr Fradgley is said to have used his work email to invite PwC employees and while “it was not compulsory to attend, there was very heavy pressure to do so”.
According to the high court documents, Mr Fradgley’s invitation stated: “I expect absolute attendance from all those who attended last year’s invitational. Nothing short of a certified and countersigned letter by an accredited medical practitioner will suffice as [sic] excuse.”
Mr Brockie, who had attended a similar event also organised by Mr Fradgley in 2018, claimed the rules for the event “not only encourage but make a competitive virtue of excessive, rapid and prolonged consumption of alcohol over many hours from about 6pm”.
He claimed it was “clearly foreseeable” that someone might injure themselves and alleged that another PwC worker suffered a serious injury in 2016 and was later off sick.
PwC stopped the annual event — which had been going on for about seven years — after Mr Brockie’s 2019 accident, the court papers claim.
The firm said: “We are unable to comment on the specifics of a matter that is subject to ongoing legal proceedings.
“As a responsible employer, we are committed to providing a safe, healthy and inclusive culture for all of our people. We also expect anyone attending social events to be responsible and to ensure their own safety and that of others.”
PwC has yet to file a defence in the case. Mr Fradgley, who is not a defendant in the case, did not respond to a request for comment made through PwC.
Mr Brockie and his lawyer declined to comment. Mr Fradgley and Mr Brockie still work at PwC. — Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022
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