Barrett 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.
Held: An adult formerly in the care of a local authority as a child could sue the Authority for negligence in the Authority’s failure to find an adoptive home, or foster parents or to manage his return to his own family, resulting in psychiatric damage. The claim was justiciable, and the allegations worthy of investigation. It was accepted that a claim may lie against a local authority arising from child-care decisions in certain circumstances. The general undesirability of striking out claims arising in uncertain and developing areas of the law without full exploration of the facts was emphasised. The notion of an exclusionary rule conferring immunity on particular classes of defendant was rejected. Tt was not considered that the policy factors which had weighed with the House in X v Bedfordshire and M v Newham had the same weight where complaints related to acts and omissions after a child had been taken into care.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson said: ‘In my speech in the Bedfordshire case [1995] 2 AC 633 , 740-741 with which the other members of the House agreed, I pointed out that unless it was possible to give a certain answer to the question whether the plaintiff’s claim would succeed, the case was inappropriate for striking out. I further said that in an area of the law which was uncertain and developing (such as the circumstances in which a person can be held liable in negligence for the exercise of a statutory duty or power) it is not normally appropriate to strike out. In my judgment it is of great importance that such development should be on the basis of actual facts found at trial not on hypothetical facts assumed (possibly wrongly) to be true for the purpose of the strike out.’

Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Nolan, Lord Steyn, Lord Hutton
Gazette 14-Jul-1999, Times 18-Jun-1999, [2001] 2 AC 550, [1999] UKHL 25, [1999] 3 All ER 193, [1993] 3 WLR 79, [1999] BLGR 473, (1999) 2 CCL Rep 203, [1999] Fam Law 622, (1999) 1 LGLR 829, (1999) 11 Admin LR 839, [1999] Ed CR 833, [1999] PIQR P272, [1999] 2 FCR 434, (1999) 49 BMLR 1, [1999] 2 FLR 426
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
Citing:
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .

Cited by:
CitedK v the Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 31-May-2002
The applicant sought damages from the defendant who had released from custody pending deportation a man convicted of violent sexual crimes and who had then raped her. She appealed against a strike out of her claim. She had been refused information . .
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedAdams v Bracknell Forest Borough Council HL 17-Jun-2004
A attended the defendant’s schools between 1977 and 1988. He had always experienced difficulties with reading and writing and as an adult found those difficulties to be an impediment in his employment. He believed them to be the cause of the . .
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 . .
CitedRowley and others v Secretary of State for Department of Work and Pensions CA 19-Jun-2007
The claimants sought damages for alleged negligence of the defendant in the administration of the Child Support system.
Held: The defendant in administering the statutory system owed no direct duty of care to those affected: ‘a common law duty . .
CitedPierce v Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council QBD 13-Dec-2007
The claimant sought damages, saying that the local authority had failed to protect him when he was a child against abuse by his parents.
Held: The claimant had been known to the authority since he was a young child, and they owed him a duty of . .
CitedK v Central and North West London Mental Health NHS Trust and Another QBD 30-May-2008
k_centralQBD2008
The claimant appealed against an order striking out his claim in negligence. He had leaped from a window in a suicide attempt. The accommodation was provided by the defendant whilst caring for him under the 1983 Act.
Held: The case should be . .
CitedHome Office v Mohammed and Others CA 29-Mar-2011
The claimants sought damages saying that after a decision had been made that they should receive indefinite leave to remain in 2001 (latest), the leave was not issued until 2007 (earliest) thus causing them severe losses. The defendant now appealed . .
CitedMotasim v Crown Prosecution Service and Others QBD 15-Aug-2017
The claimant had been arrested on suspicion of terrorism, from his innocent association with people later convicted of terrorism. The defendant discovered evidence which would undermine the case against him, but refuse to disclose it. Eventually, . .
CitedPhones 4U Ltd v EE Ltd ComC 16-Jan-2018
The parties contracted for the marketing of contracts for the marketing of the defendant’s mobile phone contracts. On the claimant entering administration, the defendant exercised a clause in their contract to terminate the contract. The claimant . .
CitedArmes 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 . .
CitedFarah and Others v British Airways and Another CA 6-Dec-1999
The Court was asked whether the Home Office can be liable for the loss caused to immigrants as a result of an immigration liaison officer negligently and wrongly advising an airline that the immigrants did not have the required documentation to . .
CitedCXZ v ZXC QBD 26-Jun-2020
Malicious Prosecution needs court involvement
W had made false allegations against her husband of child sex abuse to police. He sued in malicious prosecution. She applied to strike out, and he replied saying that as a developing area of law a strike out was inappropriate.
Held: The claim . .
CitedRobinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police SC 8-Feb-2018
Limits to Police Exemption from Liability
The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Local Government

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.159008