Cox 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 claimant’s appeal succeeded at the Court of Appeal.
Held: The Minister’s appeal failed. The activities assigned to the prisoners were integral to the activities of the prison in furthering its aims, particular so for the provision of prisoners’ meals. That these aims served also the public interest was not a bar to the imposition of vicarious liability. The prison service placed the prisoners in a position where there was a risk of committing a variety of negligent acts. This was recognised by the provision of health and safety training. The prisoners worked under the direction of prison staff. The claimant had been injured as a result of the prisoner’s negligence in carrying on activities assigned to him, and the prison service was therefore vicariously liable to her.
Reference was made to five incidents of the relationship between employer and employee which had been identified in the Christian Brothers case as usually making it fair, just and reasonable to impose vicarious liability, and which could properly give rise to vicarious liability where other relationships had the same incidents and could therefore be treated as akin to employment. They were: (i) the employer is more likely to have the means to compensate the victim than the employee and can be expected to have insured against that liability; (ii) the tort will have been committed as a result of activity being taken by the employee on behalf of the employer; (iii) the employee’s activity is likely to be part of the business activity of the employer; (iv) the employer, by employing the employee to carry on the activity will have created the risk of the tort committed by the employee; and (v) the employee will, to a greater or lesser degree, have been under the control of the employer.
The weight to be attached to these various factors will vary according to the context, and ‘The result of this approach is that a relationship other than one of employment is in principle capable of giving rise to vicarious liability where harm is wrongfully done by an individual who carries on activities as an integral part of the business activities carried on by a defendant and for its benefit (rather than his activities being entirely attributable to the conduct of a recognisably independent business of his own or of a third party), and where the commission of the wrongful act is a risk created by the defendant by assigning those activities to the individual in question.’

Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Dyson, Lord Reed, Lord Toulson
[2016] WLR(D) 110, [2016] UKSC 10, [2016] 2 WLR 806, [2016] IRLR 370, [2016] PIQR P8, [2017] 1 All ER 1, [2016] ICR 470, [2016] AC 660, UKSC 2014/0089
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary
Health and Safety Act 1974 48(3), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 5(1)
England and Wales
At County CourtCox 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 . .
At CACox 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 . .
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 . .
CitedTurberville v Stampe 1698
A master is responsible for all acts done by his servant in the course of his employment, even though he may have given no particular directions. . .
CitedThomas Duncan, Treasurer To The Trustees Of The Perth And Dundee Turnpike Road v James Findlater HL 23-Aug-1839
Trustees appointed under a Public Road Act are not responsible for an injury occasioned by the negligence of the men employed in making or repairing the road.
The funds raised by such Act cannot be charged with compensation for such an injury; . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedBartonshill Coal Company v Jane McGuire, Widow HL 17-Jun-1858
Master’s Liability to the Public for Injury done by a Servant. – Per the Lord Chancellor: A master is liable for any injury or damage done to the public through the negligence or unskilfulness of servants acting in the master’s employ. The reason . .
CitedDubai Aluminium Company Limited v Salaam and Others HL 5-Dec-2002
Partners Liable for Dishonest Act of Solicitor
A solicitor had been alleged to have acted dishonestly, having assisted in a fraudulent breach of trust by drafting certain documents. Contributions to the damages were sought from his partners.
Held: The acts complained of were so close to . .
CitedCentral Motors (Glasgow) Ltd v Cessnock Garage and Motor Co 1925
A night watchman at a garage drove off in a car left there for his own purposes and damaged it.
Held: The garage had delegated to their employee the duty of keeping the car safely secured in the garage and they were liable to the owners of the . .
CitedBroom v Morgan CA 1953
The plaintiff and her husband were employed by the defendant to manage and work in a beer and wine house. The Plaintiff was injured through the negligence of her husband in the course of his employment. In an action by her against the defendant in . .
CitedIlkiw v Samuels CA 1963
The plaintiff was injured by the careless manouvering of a lorry by the defendant’s employee.
Held: When considering the vicarious liability of an employer, the proper approach to the nature of the servant’s employment is a broad one. . .

Cited by:
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 . .
CitedChell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Ltd CA 12-Jan-2022
Explosive pellet not part of employee’s role.
The claimant worked on a site operated by the respondent. One of the respondent’s employees exploded two pellet targets injuring the claimant’s hearing. He asserted vicarious liability in the respondent. There had been tensions between the claimant . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability, Prisons

Updated: 14 January 2022; Ref: scu.560621