Sales boss offered £1m payout after fight at Northampton Christmas party left him brain damaged

Clive Bellman's lawyers say he is now due over 1 million damages after his lifelong friend and recruitment tycoon, John Major, laid into him, wrecking his life.
Clive Bellman's lawyers say he is now due over 1 million damages after his lifelong friend and recruitment tycoon, John Major, laid into him, wrecking his life.

A sales manager catastrophically brain damaged when punched by his boss after a Northampton firm's Christmas party has triumphed in a landmark fight for compensation.

Clive Bellman's lawyers say he is now due over £1 million damages after his lifelong friend and recruitment tycoon, John Major, laid into him, wrecking his life.

He "went straight back like a falling tree", slamming his head on the marble floor of Northampton's Hilton Hotel, after Mr Major punched him in the face.

Mr Bellman sued the company for which they both worked - Mr Major as Managing Director - Northampton Recruitment Limited.

His claim was rejected in 2016 by a judge who ruled the company could not be held legally to blame for Mr Major's actions.

But now three Court of Appeal judges have reversed that decision and handed Mr Bellman the right to a massive payout.

Lady Justice Asplin said Mr Major had been "wearing his hat" as the company's MD when he slammed his fist twice into Mr Bellman's face.

The 62-year-old sales manager, of Foster Avenue, Windsor, was attacked after hard-drinking festivities ended in chaos in December 2011.

Mr Bellman was punched in the face, got back up, but was punched again, smashing his head on the floor, with blood coming from his nose, ears and mouth.

The attack by Mr Major, who he had known since childhood, left Mr Bellman with a fractured skull and a severe traumatic brain injury.

Violence erupted as colleagues gathered in the Hilton Hotel for an early hours drink after the office party at Collingtree Golf Club.

And Judge Barry Cotter QC ruled in 2016 that Northampton Recruitment could not be blamed for Mr Major's senseless act.

The office party had ended by the time he attacked Mr Bellman at 3am.

Overturning that ruling today, Lady Justice Asplin ruled Mr Major had "misused his position" as the company's boss.

The drinking session at the hotel was "a very long way from being a social round of golf between colleagues," added the judge, who was sitting with Lords Jutice Irwin and Moylan.

"Mr Major was purporting to exercise his authority over his subordinates and was not merely one of a group of drunken revellers whose conversation had turned to work.

The amount of Mr Bellman's damages payout has yet to be assessed, but his lawyers say he is claiming over £1 million.