A and Another v Essex County Council: CA 17 Dec 2003

The claimant sought damages. The respondent had acted as an adoption agency but had failed to disclose all relevant information about the child.
Held: Any such duty extended only during the period where the child was with the prospective adopters pending their decision on adoption. Hale LJ: ‘Whenever the question of a common law duty of care arises in the context of the statutory functions of a public authority, there are three potential areas of inquiry: first, whether the matter is justiciable at all or whether the statutory framework is such that Parliament must have intended to leave such decisions to the authorities, subject of course to the public law supervision of the courts; second, whether even if justiciable, it involves the exercise of a statutory discretion which only gives rise to liability in tort if it is so unreasonable that it falls outside the ambit of the discretion; third in any event whether it is fair just and reasonable in all the circumstances to impose such a duty of care. The considerations relevant to each of these issues overlap and it is not always possible to draw hard and fast lines between them.’
The general adoption process is not in law a matter of contract, and contractual analysis cannot be applied to it.


Lady Justice Hale Lord Justice Ward Lord Justice Scott Baker


[2003] EWCA Civ 1848, Times 22-Jan-2004, [2004] 1 WLR 1881




England and Wales


AppliedPage v Smith HL 12-May-1995
The plaintiff was driving his car when the defendant turned into his path. Both cars suffered considerable damage but the drivers escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff had a pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome, which manifested itself from time . .
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedStovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
CitedPhelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council; Anderton v Clwyd County Council; Gower v Bromley London Borough Council; Jarvis v Hampshire County Council HL 28-Jul-2000
The plaintiffs each complained of negligent decisions in his or her education made by the defendant local authorities. In three of them the Court of Appeal had struck out the plaintiff’s claim and in only one had it been allowed to proceed.
CitedAnns and Others v Merton London Borough Council HL 12-May-1977
The plaintiff bought her apartment, but discovered later that the foundations were defective. The local authority had supervised the compliance with Building Regulations whilst it was being built, but had failed to spot the fault. The authority . .
CitedB and others v Attorney General and others PC 16-Jul-2003
(New Zealand) Children were removed from their home. The father was interviewed for suspected child abuse, but no charges were laid. He sought damages in negligence for the way the matter had been handled. Children whose allegations against adopted . .
CitedJD, MAK and RK, RK and Another v East Berkshire Community Health, Dewsbury Health Care NHS Trust and Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Oldham NHS Trust and Dr Blumenthal CA 31-Jul-2003
Damages were sought by parents for psychological harm against health authorities for the wrongful diagnosis of differing forms of child abuse. They appealed dismissal of their awards on the grounds that it was not ‘fair just and reasonable’ to . .
CitedW v Essex County Council and Another HL 17-Mar-2000
A foster child was placed with a family. The child had a history of abusing other children, but the foster parents, who had other children were not told. The foster child caused psychiatric damage to the carers.
Held: It was wrong to strike . .
CitedW and B (Children) and W (Children) CA 23-May-2001
If the state is to interfere in the child’s right to respect for his family life, it has a duty to use its best endeavours to make good what it has taken away. . .
CitedBolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee QBD 1957
Professional to use Skilled Persons Ordinary Care
Negligence was alleged against a doctor.
Held: McNair J directed the jury: ‘Where some special skill is exercised, the test for negligence is not the test of the man on the Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test . .
CitedSouth Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd etc HL 24-Jun-1996
Limits of Damages for Negligent Valuations
Damages for negligent valuations are limited to the foreseeable consequences of advice, and do not include losses arising from a general fall in values. Valuation is seldom an exact science, and within a band of figures valuers may differ without . .
Appeal fromA, B v Essex County Council QBD 18-Dec-2002
The applicants sought damages after they had had placed with them for adoption a child who proved to be destructively hyperactive.
Held: The authority might be liable where they failed to disclose to adoptive parents known characteristics of a . .

Cited by:

CitedCarty v London Borough of Croydon CA 27-Jan-2005
The claimant sought damages in negligence from education officers employed by the respondent. He appealed refusal of his claim. A statement of special education needs had been made which he said did not address his learning difficulties. The . .
CitedJD v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust and others HL 21-Apr-2005
Parents of children had falsely and negligently been accused of abusing their children. The children sought damages for negligence against the doctors or social workers who had made the statements supporting the actions taken. The House was asked if . .
CitedB and B v A County Council CA 21-Nov-2006
The claimants sought damages from the defendant local authority after their identities had been wrongfully revealed to the natural parents of the adoptees leading to a claimed campaign of harassment. The adopters has specifically requested that . .
CitedJain and Another v Trent Strategic Health Authority CA 22-Nov-2007
The claimant argued that the defendant owed him a duty of care as proprietor of a registered nursing home in cancelling the registration of the home under the 1984 Act. The authority appealed a finding that it owed such a duty.
Held: The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Adoption, Professional Negligence

Updated: 12 November 2022; Ref: scu.188910