Cox v Ministry of Justice: CA 19 Feb 2014

Appeal against rejection of claim for personal injury. While working as the catering manager at HM Prison Swansea, the Claimant was injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a prisoner carrying out paid work under her supervision. The prisoner had dropped a large bag of rice on her whilst she was kneeling. The prisoner was found negligent, but the curt had held that the Prison authorities were not responsible.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The judge had been wrong to hold that the Respondent was not vicariously liable for the negligence of the prisoner: ‘the prison authorities have to feed the prisoners and for that purpose they have to have food supplies delivered to the prison. When delivered the supplies have to be taken from the delivery area to the stores. Someone has to do that job. In many institutions, schools or hospitals perhaps, the task would be performed by employees of the institution. Here, it was performed by prisoners for whom the authorities were obliged to provide useful work. However, the work performed by these prisoners was one essential to the functioning of the prison. The activity had to be performed by someone on behalf of the prison service and the activity was part of the Respondent’s activity of providing secure and humane accommodation and maintenance for the prisoners. The activity was different in nature from the activity of a prisoner engaged in education, training or on an offending behaviour programme. Such activity, while no doubt part of the Respondent’s task of rehabilitating prisoners (and, as such, part of the ‘business’ of the prison), is largely for the prisoner’s benefit and certainly is not an activity which (absent the prisoners’ work) would have to be performed by an employee. Quite the opposite, no employee would be engaged on such rehabilitative activity. Those activities are prisoners’ activities, far from any kinship with employment.
The work carried out by the prisoners in the present case relieved the Respondent from engaging employees at market rates of pay and with all the concomitants of an employment relationship. The work was clearly done on the Respondent’s behalf and for its benefit or as the judge put it to ‘defray . . the expense to the state caused by prisons’. Departing from the judge, however, I think that the feeding of the prisoners and the procurement of supplies for that purpose was clearly part of the venture, enterprise or ‘business’ (if you will) of the Respondent in running the prison.’

McCombe, Beatson, Sharp LJJ
[2014] EWCA Civ 132, [2014] ICR 713, [2014] PIQR P17, [2015] 1 QB 107, [2014] 3 WLR 1036
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 5(1), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 5(1), Prison Rules 1999 31
England and Wales
CitedWiesniewski v Central Manchester Health Authority CA 1998
Brooke LJ stated the following principles: ‘From this line of authority I derive the following principles in the context of the present case: (1) In certain circumstances a court may be entitled to draw adverse inferences from the absence or silence . .
CitedO’Neill v DSG Retail Ltd CA 31-Jul-2002
The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for damages after he was injured at work. He claimed he had been asked to work in breach of the Regulations.
Held: It was easy but wrong to conflate the issues of causation and forseeability. 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 . .
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 . .
Appeal fromCox v Ministry of Justice Misc 3-May-2013
(Swansea County Court) While working as a catering manager at HM Prison Swansea, the claimant suffered injury in an accident caused by the negligence of a prisoner who was carrying out paid work under her supervision. She now sought damages from the . .

Cited by:
At CACox 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Prisons, Vicarious Liability

Updated: 30 November 2021; Ref: scu.521494