Lister and Others -v- Hesley Hall Ltd; HL 3-May-2001

A school board employed staff to manage a residential school for vulnerable children. The staff committed sexual abuse of the children. The school denied vicarious liability for the acts of the teachers.
Held: ‘Vicarious liability is legal responsibility imposed on an employer, although he is himself free from blame, for a tort committed by his employee in the course of his employment.’ ‘Vicarious liability is a species of strict liability. It is not premised on any culpable act or omission on the part of the employer; an employer who is not personally at fault is made legally answerable for the fault of his employee. It is best understood as a loss-distribution device’ (Lord Millett) The court overruled earlier decisions to hold that the school was vicariously liable. The test is not just whether the abuse was an unauthorised way of carrying out tasks authorised as part of the employment. These acts had been committed on the premises and during the time when the staff should have been complying with their duty to care for the children. The connection of time and place, and the inextricable link between the acts of abuse and the employment, were sufficiently close to establish liability. Wrongful conduct must be so closely connected with acts the partner or employee was authorised to do that, for the purpose of the liability of the firm or the employer to third parties, the wrongful conduct may fairly and properly be regarded as done by the partner while acting in the ordinary course of the firm’s business or the employee’s employment.

Court: HL
Date: 03-May-2001
Judges: Lord Steyn, Lord Clyde, Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett
Links: Bailii, House of Lords,
References: Times, 10-May-2001, Gazette, 14-Jun-2001, [2001] UKHL 22, [2002] 1 AC 215, [2001] 2 All ER 769, [2001] 2 FCR 97, (2001) 3 LGLR 49, [2001] NPC 89, [2001] Fam Law 595, [2001] 2 WLR 1311, [2001] IRLR 472, [2001] ICR 665, [2001] Emp LR 819, [2001] 2 FLR 307, [2001] ELR 422
Cases Cited:
  • Lister and others -v- Hesley Hall Ltd, CA, Appeal from, (Times 13-Oct-99)
  • Simon Trotman (By her Mother and Next Friend Irene Trotman) -v- North Yorkshire County Council, CA, Overruled, (Gazette 26-Aug-98, Bailii, [1998] EWCA Civ 1208, [1999] LGR 584)
  • Lloyd -v- Grace, Smith and Co, HL, Cited, ([1912] AC 716, Bailii, [1912] UKHL 1)
  • Canadian Pacific Railway Co -v- Lockhart, PC, Cited, ([1942] AC 591, [1941] SCR 278, [1942] All ER 464)
  • Racz -v- Home Office, HL, Cited, (Times 17-Dec-93, Independent 17-Dec-93, [1994] 2 AC 45)
  • Morris -v- C W Martin & Sons Ltd, CA, Cited, ([1966] 1 QB 716)
  • Williams -v- A & W Hemphill Ltd, HL, Cited, (1966 SC(HL) 31)
  • Port Swettenham Authority -v- T W Wu & Co (M) Sdn Bhd, PC, Cited, ([1979] AC 580)
  • Rose -v- Plenty, CA, Cited, ([1976] 1 WLR 141, Bailii, [1975] EWCA Civ 5, [1976] 1 All ER 97, [1975] ICR 430)
  • Ilkiw -v- Samuels, CA, Cited, ([1963] 1 WLR 991)
  • Photo Production Ltd -v- Securicor Transport Ltd, HL, Cited, ([1980] AC 827, Bailii, [1980] UKHL 2, [1980] 1 All ER 556)
  • Jacobi -v- Griffiths, , Approved, ((1999) 174 DLR(4th) 71, Canlii, [1999] 9 WWR 1, 44 CCEL (2d) 169, 63 BCLR (3d) 1)
  • Bazley -v- Curry, , Approved, ((1999) 174 DLR(4th) 45, Canlii, [1999] 8 WWR 197, 43 CCEL (2d) 1, 62 BCLR (3d) 173)
  • Sanderson -v- Collins, CA, Cited, ([1904] 1 KB 628)
  • Kilboy -v- South Eastern Fire Area Joint Committee, , Cited, (1952 SC 280)
  • Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd -v- Shatwell, HL, Cited, ([1964] 2 All ER 999, [1965] AC 656, Bailii, [1964] UKHL 2)
  • Staveley Iron & Chemical Co Ltd -v- Jones, HL, Cited, ([1956] AC 627)
  • Kirby -v- National Coal Board, OHCS, Cited, (1958 SC 514)
  • Plumb -v- Cobden Flour Mills Co Ltd, HL, Cited, ([1914] AC 62)
  • Tower Boot Company Limited -v- Jones, CA, Cited, (Times 16-Dec-96, Bailii, [1996] EWCA Civ 1185, [1997] ICR 254)
  • Century Insurance -v- Northern Ireland Road Transport Board, HL, Cited, ([1942] AC 509, Bailii, [1942] UKHL 2)
  • Deatons Pty Ltd -v- Flew, , Cited, ((1949) 79 CLR 370, Austlii)
  • Irving and Irving -v- Post Office, CA, Cited, ([1987] IRLR 289)
  • Central Motors (Glasgow) Ltd -v- Cessnock Garage and Motor Co, , Cited, (1925 SC 796)
  • Ward -v- Scotrail Railways Limited, SCS, Cited, (Bailii, ScotC, [1998] ScotCS 81, 1999 SC 255)
  • Aldred -v- Nacanco, CA, Cited, ([1987] IRLR 292)
  • Meux -v- Great Eastern Railway Co, , Cited, ([1895] 2 QB 387)
  • Gilchrist Watt and Sanderson Pty Ltd -v- York Products Pty Ltd, PC, Cited, ([1970] 1 WLR 1262)
  • Barwick -v- English Joint Stock Bank, , Cited, ((1867) LR 2 Ex 259)
  • Foulkes -v- Metropolitan District Railway Co, , Cited, ((1880) 5 CPD 157)
  • Dyer -v- Munday; Morris v Martin, CA, Cited, ([1895] 1 QB 742)
  • Warren -v- Henlys Ltd, , Cited, ([1948] 2 All ER 935)

Cited By:
  • Mattis -v- Pollock (T/A Flamingo's Nightclub), CA, Cited, (Bailii, [2003] EWCA Civ 887, [2003] 1 WLR 2158, [2003] IRLR 603, [2004] PIQR P3, [2003] ICR 1335, [2004] 4 All ER 85)
  • Dubai Aluminium Company Limited -v- Salaam and Others, HL, Cited, (House of Lords, Times 06-Dec-02, Bailii, [2003] 1 Lloyd's Rep 65, [2002] UKHL 48, [2002] 3 WLR 1913, [2003] 2 AC 366, [2003] 1 All ER 97, [2003] 2 All ER (Comm) 451, [2003] 1 LLR 65, [2003] 1 BCLC 32, [2003] IRLR 608, [2003] 1 CLC 1020, [2003] WTLR 163)
  • The Attorney General -v- Hartwell, PC, Cited, (PC, Bailii, [2004] UKPC 12, Times 27-Feb-04, PC, Gazette 25-Mar-04, [2004] 1 WLR 1273, [2004] PIQR 27)
  • Frans Maas (Uk) Ltd -v- Samsung Electronics (Uk) Ltd, ComC, Cited, (Bailii, [2004] EWHC 1502 (Comm), [2004] 2 Lloyds Rep 251)
  • Mattis -v- Pollock (T/A Flamingo's Nightclub), QBD, Cited, (Bailii, [2002] EWHC 2177 (QB), [2003] 1 WLR 2158, [2004] 4 All ER 85, [2003] All ER (D) 10, [2004] PIQR P3, [2003] IRLR 603, [2003] ICR 1335)
  • Balfron Trustees Ltd -v- Peterson, CA, Considered, ([2001] IRLR 758)
  • Cercato-Gouveia -v- Kiprianou and Another, CA, Cited, (Bailii, [2001] EWCA Civ 1203)
  • Bernard -v- The Attorney General of Jamaica, PC, Cited, (PC, Bailii, [2004] UKPC 47, PC, No. 30 of 2003, [2005] IRLR 398)
  • Brown -v- Robinson and Sentry, PC, Cited, (Bailii, [2004] UKPC 56, PC)
  • Hutchinson -v- Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Another, QBD, Cited, (Bailii, [2005] EWHC 1660 (QB))
  • Majrowski -v- Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, CA, Cited, (Bailii, [2005] EWCA Civ 251, Times 21-Mar-05, [2005] QB 848, [2005] ICR 977, [2005] 2 WLR 1503, [2005] IRLR 340)
  • Majrowski -v- Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, HL, Cited, (Bailii, [2006] UKHL 34, Times 13-Jul-06, [2006] 4 All ER 395, (2006) 91 BMLR 85, [2006] ICR 1199, [2006] 3 WLR 125, [2007] 1 AC 224, [2006] IRLR 695)
  • Helen Green -v- DB Group Services (UK) Ltd, QBD, Cited, (Bailii, [2006] EWHC 1898 (QB))
  • Gravil -v- Carroll and Another, CA, Cited, (Bailii, [2008] EWCA Civ 689, Times 22-Jul-08, [2008] ICR 1222, [2008] IRLR 829)
  • Maga -v- The Trustees of The Birmingham Archdiocese of The Roman Catholic Church, CA, Authoritative, (Bailii, [2010] EWCA Civ 256, Times, [2010] PTSR 1618, [2010] 1 WLR 1441)
  • Weddall -v- Barchester Healthcare Ltd, CA, Cited, (Bailii, [2012] EWCA Civ 25)
  • Reynolds -v- Strutt & Parker LLP, ChD, Cited, ([2011] EWHC 2263 (Ch), Bailii)

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