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Supreme Court decision on vicarious liability - Christopher Melton QC

18th October 2017

The Supreme Court today handed down its decision in the important case of Natasha Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council. 


Chris Melton QC from Byrom Street Chambers, in his fourth case before the Supreme Court, acted for the Appellant. His junior was Phil Davy from Ropewalk Chambers in Nottingham.


The appeal was allowed.


As a child, the claimant was abused physically and sexually by foster parents with whom she was placed while in the care of the defendant local authority. The local authority were not negligent in the selection or supervision of the foster parents. Males J and the Court of Appeal rejected the claims on the law. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that no non-delegable duty was owed but allowed the appeal. The Supreme Court decided that the local authority is vicariously liable to the claimant for the abuse inflicted by the foster parents.


The Supreme Court so decided on the basis that the foster parents provided care to the child as an integral part of the local authority’s organisation of its child care services. It accepted the claimant’s argument that it is impossible to draw a sharp line between the activity of the local authority, who were responsible for the care of the child and the promotion of her welfare, and that of the foster parents, whom they recruited and trained, and with whom they placed the child, in order for her to receive care in the setting which they considered would best promote her welfare. In these circumstances, it can properly be said that the torts committed against the claimant were committed by the foster parents in the course of an activity carried on for the benefit of the local authority which should give rise to vicarious liability.


Lord Hughes dissented.


To view the judgement click here 

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