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Pushing at the boundaries of vicarious liability

The bare facts of Various Claimants v The Catholic Child Welfare Society and others [2010] EWCA Civ 1106 and the Court of Appeal’s decision have already been set out in an earlier post on 27 Oct 2010. Now in a recent case comment in the Journal of Professional Negligence entitled “Pushing at the boundaries of vicarious liability” (PN 2011 27(1) pp42-45), Paula Case analyses the judgments of the Court of Appeal. The article is well worth reading. It emphasises the point that the English courts have adopted a conservative approach to any extension of the doctrine of vicarious liability beyond employment relationships. It also flags the divergence in approaches adopted by the two judges giving the leading judgments: she describes Lord Justices Hughes as adopting a “doctrinal” approach; Lord Justice Pill on the other hand is said to have reached his decision by means of a “pragmatic” approach. In the event, both approaches led to the same answer, namely that the De La Institute was not vicariously liable for the alleged acts of abuse by members of staff working at the school. As to whether the Supreme Court, which has granted permission to appeal, reaches the same decision, remains to be seen. 

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