Biffa Waste Services Ltd and Another v Maschinenfabrik Ernst Hese Gmbh and others: CA 12 Nov 2008

The defendant contracted to build a plant for the claimant. The plant was damaged by a fire caused by the defendant’s independent sub-contractor. The defendant appealed against the finding that it was responsible for the sub-contractor’s failure. The risk of fire had been identified, but not properly understood. The judge found that the defendant had imposed sufficient control over the way the task had been handled to have become responsible.
Held: The defendant’s appeal was allowed. Biffa could not establish liability under the borrowed employee rule – the workmen had too much independence. Supervision is not control, and the judge had erred. The principle which made a main contractor responsible for the acts of properly chosen independent sub-contractors where the working situation was ultra hazardous was quite unsatisfactory and should be restricted in its effect to exceptional situations where the hazards would remain whatever safety steps were taken. The decision in Honeywill should be restricted.


Lord Justice May, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton


[2008] EWCA Civ 1257


Bailii, Times


England and Wales


Appeal fromBiffa Waste Services Ltd and Another v Maschinenfabrik Ernst Hese Gmbh and others TCC 11-Jan-2008
. .
CitedMersey Docks and Harbour Board v Coggins and Griffith (Liverpool) Ltd HL 1946
Employers Liability for Worker’s Negligence
A worker was injured by a negligently driven crane. The crane and Board’s driver were hired out to stevedores for loading work. The stevedores controlled the crane’s operations, but did not direct how the driver controlled the crane. The hire . .
CitedNokes v Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries Ltd HL 1948
A Contract of Service is not a form of property
The employee coal miner was prosecuted for absenting himself from work. He was found liable by the justices and appealed. The basis of the appeal was that he had formerly been employed by the Hickleton Mining Company Limited. That had become . .
CitedDenham v Midland Employers’ Mutual Assurance Limited CA 1955
The court was asked which of two mutually exclusive liability insurance policies covered damages which an employer was liable to pay to the widow of an employee, who was killed while he was working under the specific direction of engineers engaged . .
CitedSmith and another v Blandford Gee Cementation Co Ltd 1970
The court considered a finding by a tribunal that a contract of services had been transferred. Bridge J said: ‘To my mind, it runs counter to a fundamental principle that a man’s contractual position, particularly in such a vital matter as the . .
See AlsoBiffa Waste Services Ltd and Another v Maschinenfabrik Ernst Hese Gmbh and others TCC 31-Oct-2008
. .
See AlsoBiffa Waste Services Ltd and Another v Maschinenfabrik Ernst Hese Gmbh and others TCC 19-Sep-2008
Claim for damages after fire occuring during construction of waste plant. . .
CitedHawley v Luminar Leisure Ltd and others CA 24-Jan-2006
The claimant was assaulted and severely injured at a night club by a doorman supplied to the club by a third party company now in liquidation. He claimed the club was the ‘temporary deemed employer’ of the doorman. He also sought to claim under the . .
CitedViasystems (Tyneside) Ltd v Thermal Transfer (Northern) Ltd and others CA 10-Oct-2005
The defendants had subcontracted work installing air conditioning to the second defendants, who in turn bought in fitters from the third defendants. A fitter caused a flood acting irresponsibly.
Held: The court reviewed the law of vicarious . .
RestrictedHoneywill v Larkin CA 1933
The plaintiffs wanted photographs inside a cinema on which they had worked, and asked the defendants to take them. The photographer used a chemical flashlight using magnesium which gave off intense heat. The negligent photographer caused a fire. The . .

Cited by:

CitedJGE v The Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust CA 12-Jul-2012
The claimant suffered physical and serious sexual abuse whilst a child at a children’s home run by the defendant. A parish priest committed some of the abuse, and she claimed that the defendants were vicariously liable. They denied such liability. . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Vicarious Liability

Updated: 25 February 2022; Ref: scu.277774