Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council: SC 18 Oct 2017

The claimant had been abused as a child by foster parents with whom she had been placed by the respondent authority. The court was now asked, the Council not having been negligent, were they in any event liable having a non-delegable duty of care with accompanying vicarious liability?
Held: The appeal succeeded (Lord Hughes dissenting). The local authority was vicariously liable for the torts committed by the foster parents in this case. However, the proposition that a local authority is under a duty to ensure that reasonable care is taken for the safety of children in care, while they are in the care and control of foster parents, is too broad, and that the responsibility with which it fixes local authorities is too demanding.


Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes


[2017] UKSC 60, [2018] PIQR P4, [2017] PTSR 1382, [2018] AC 355, [2017] 3 WLR 1000, [2018] 1 FLR 329, (2017) 20 CCL Rep 417, [2018] 1 All ER 1, UKSC 2016/0004


Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC, SC Summary, SC Summary Video, SC Video 20170208 am, SC Video 20170208 pm, SC Video 20170209 pm, SC Video 20170209 am


Children and Young Persons Act 1969, Child Care Act 1980, Boarding-Out of Children Regulations 1955


England and Wales


CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
CitedKLB v British Columbia 2-Oct-2003
Canlii (Supreme Court of Canada) Torts – Liability – Intentional torts – Abuse of children by foster parents – Whether government can be held liable for harm children suffered in foster care – Whether government . .
CitedThe Catholic Child Welfare Society and Others v Various Claimants and The Institute of The Brothers of The Christian Schools and Others SC 21-Nov-2012
Law of vicarious liability is on the move
Former children at the children’s homes had sought damages for sexual and physical abuse. The court heard arguments as to the vicarious liability of the Society for abuse caused by a parish priest visiting the school. The Court of Appeal had found . .
CitedWoodland v Essex County Council SC 23-Oct-2013
The claimant had been seriously injured in an accident during a swimming lesson. She sought to claim against the local authority, and now appealed against a finding that it was not responsible, having contracted out the provision of swimming . .
Appeal fromNA v Nottinghamshire County Council QBD 2-Dec-2014
The claimant said that as a child the defendant had failed in its duty to protect her from her abusive mother and later from foster parents.
Held: Males J, dealt with the issues of liability and limitation, leaving issues concerning causation . .
At CANA v Nottinghamshire County Council CA 12-Nov-2015
Appeal against finding that a local authority was not responsible for the sexual abuse of the appellant whilst with foster carers as a child.
Held: As to whether the duty as non-delegable, such a duty must relate to a function which the local . .
Removal of AnonymityArmes v Nottinghamshire County Council QBD 15-Nov-2016
Application to set aside anonymity order granted in earlier proceedings alleging sexual abuse. . .
CitedNew South Wales v Lepore 6-Feb-2003
Austlii (High Court of Australia) 1. Appeal allowed in part
2. Paragraph 2 of the order of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales made on 23 April 2001 set aside, and in its place, order that the judgment . .
CitedCox v Ministry of Justice SC 2-Mar-2016
The claimant was working in a prison supervising working prisoners. One of them dropped a bag of rice on her causing injury. At the County Curt, the prisoner was found negligence in the prisoner, but not the appellant for vicarious liability. The . .
CitedS v Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council CA 1985
The court was asked whether local authorities are vicariously liable for torts committed by foster parents against children placed with them while in care.
Held: The claim was rejected. The critical question was whether the foster parents were . .
CitedCarmarthenshire County Council v Lewis HL 17-Feb-1955
The House considered the unexplained fact that in the temporary absence of the teacher (who, on the evidence, was not negligent) it was possible for a child of four to wander from the school premises onto the highway, through a gate which was either . .
CitedPerry and Another v Harris (A Minor) CA 31-Jul-2008
The defendant had organised a children’s party. The claimant (11) was injured when a bigger boy was allowed to use the bouncy castle at the same time. The defendants appealed the award of damages.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The relevant . .
CitedMorris v C W Martin and Sons Ltd CA 1965
The plaintiff took her mink stole to the defendants for cleaning. An employee received and stole the fur. The judge had held that the defendants were not liable because the theft was not committed in the course of employment.
Held: The . .
CitedPort Swettenham Authority v T W Wu and Co (M) Sdn Bhd PC 19-Jun-1978
A gratuitous bailee assumes a duty to take reasonable care of the chattel: ‘This standard, although high, may be a less exacting standard than that which the common law requires of a bailee for reward [but] the line between the two standards is a . .
CitedMyton v Woods CA 1980
A claim was made against a local education authority for the negligence of a taxi firm employed by the authority to drive children to and from school.
Held: The claim failed. The authority had no statutory duty to transport children, but only . .
CitedSurtees v Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames CA 27-Mar-1991
Because children can injure themselves in so many ways, someone caring for them is not universally liable for injury to a child in their care.
A duty owed in respect of a parent’s own child may be lower. . .
CitedJGE v The English Province of Our Lady of Charity and Another QBD 8-Nov-2011
The court was asked as a preliminary issue who should be the defendant where a claim was made of rape and other assaults by a priest who was a member of the diocese of the second defendant, but employed by the first defendant school. . .
CitedBarrett v London Borough of Enfield HL 17-Jun-1999
The claimant had spent his childhood in foster care, and now claimed damages against a local authority for decisions made and not made during that period. The judge’s decision to strike out the claim had been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
CitedLister 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 . .

Cited by:

CitedBarclays Bank Plc v Various Claimants SC 1-Apr-2020
The Bank had employed a doctor to provide medical assessments as necessary. The doctor had used the opportunities presented to assault sexually many patients. The court was now asked whether the Bank was vicariously liable for the acts of this . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability, Local Government, Negligence, Children

Updated: 07 August 2022; Ref: scu.597257