The auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is being sued by a UK employee who lost half of his skull after taking part in a “pub golf” work event that involved excessive drinking.
The employee, 28-year-old Michael Brockie, filed a personal injury claim against PwC for alleged negligence, having suffered a brain injury and been put into an induced coma in early 2019.
The lawsuit describes how staff at PwC’s Reading office were encouraged to attend the after-hours “pub golf” outing, which involved visiting nine bars, or “holes”, in which they were allegedly pushed to consume a specific alcoholic drink. Workers who used the fewest swigs to consume their drink were given the best scores, which were recorded on cards that were printed and distributed in the office, it is claimed.
Brockie became so intoxicated that he had no memory of the outing after 10pm and was found in lying in the street having suffered a serious head injury after falling over, according to court filings.
“Doctors and the police came to the conclusion that I fell over and didn’t use my hands to break the fall so I ended up hitting my head on the floor,” Brockie told ITV last year. “The next thing I remember was four weeks later.”
Brockie was described by doctors as a “walking miracle” after recovering from the head injury, which resulted in the young professional having half of his skull removed and only returning to work six months later.
The court filing against PwC claims there was “heavy pressure” to attend the event, and that the rules of the event “not only encourage but make a competitive virtue of excessive, rapid and prolonged consumption of alcohol over many hours from about 6pm.”
According to the documents, the original invite from one of PwC’s managers stated: “I expect absolute attendance from all of those who attended last year’s invitational. Nothing short of a certified and countersigned letter by an accredited medical practitioner will suffice as excuse.”
Brockie had also attended the 2018 version of the “pub golf” event. PwC put an end to the annual outing – which had been going for about seven years – after his injury.
Brockie is now suing PwC, where he is still employed, for more than £200,000, and is requesting that additional future payments be made available. The court documents claim there is a risk that Brockie could develop epilepsy in the long-term as a result of his injuries.
PwC, which this month confirmed it had handed partners more than £1m each for the first time last year, has not yet filed a defence against the claim.
“We are unable to comment on the specifics of a matter that is subject to ongoing legal proceedings,” PwC said in a statement. “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.”
Brockie’s lawyer declined to comment.
It is the latest lawsuit linked to heavy drinking at professional and financial services firms, which are still struggling to escape their “boys’ club” reputation. In March, the insurance market Lloyd’s of London fined one of its member firms for mishandling a bullying and harassment case and hosting an inappropriate “boys’ night out” event that featured excessive drinking and inappropriate initiation games for staff.