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No Human Rights Act duties in Fatal Accidents Act claims

In Morgan v Ministry of Justice [2010] EWHC 2248 QB the High Court has rejected an attempt to introduce Human Rights Act type duties into Fatal Accidents Act claims. The deceased claimant committed suicide whilst receiving treatment in the hospital wing of prison. The hospital wing was run by the NHS and not the Prison Service. The deceased’s estate brought a claim against the Prison Service under the Fatal Accidents Act. The estate argued that the Prison Service was subject to a non-delegable duty under the Human Rights Act to ensure that, whilst he was a prisoner of the State, reasonable care would be taken in respect of all aspects of the arrangements that were made for the deceased’s welfare. By that means, argued the estate, the Prison Service was liable for the NHS’ failure to carry out adequate assessments of the risk that the deceased would commit suicide. It was argued that it did not matter whether the medical staff were the servants or agents of the Prison Service: the non-delegable duty contended for made that issue irrelevant.

 The High Court held that the Prison Service did not owe a duty of care either at common law or under the Human Rights Act in respect of the actions of NHS staff. It also held that the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 precluded claims against the Crown in respect of the actions of non-Crown bodies, and that the NHS was a non-Crown body.


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