JGE 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.
Held: The Diocesan Trust could be vicariously liable for acts of sexual abuse committed by a parish priest in the diocese. The court considered the status in employment of a Catholic priest.
Ward L said that because English law did not recognise the Catholic Church as a legal entity in its own right but saw it as an unincorporated association with no legal personality, the diocese usually established a charitable trust to enable it to own and manage property and otherwise conduct its financial affairs in accordance with domestic law. Though there had been understandable confusion as to whom to sue and the case had proceeded effectively against the Bishop, it was the trustees who would be covered by the relevant insurance should liability be established. Intuitively one would think that, as a priest is always said to be ‘a servant of god’, the Roman Catholic Church itself would be the responsible defendant, but the Roman Catholic Church could not be a party as it had no legal personality. The Bishop was the person whose vicarious liability was in issue.
‘I can conclude that the time has come emphatically to announce that the law of vicarious liability has moved beyond the confines of a contract of service. The test that I have set myself is whether the relationship . . [in question] . . is so close in character to one of employer and employee that it is just and fair to hold the employer vicariously liable.’
Ward, Tomlinson, Davies LJJ
[2012] EWCA Civ 938, [2012] WLR(D) 204, [2012] 4 All ER 1152, [2013] 2 WLR 958, [2013] 1 QB 722, [2013] PTSR 565, [2012] IRLR 846, [2012] PIQR P19, [2013] Ch 722
Bailii, WLRD
England and Wales
CitedDonovan v Laing, Wharton and Down Construction Syndicate Ltd CA 1893
The plaintiff was injured by the negligence of a crane driver. The defendants had contracted to lend the crane with its driver to a firm who were loading a ship.
Held: There are circumstances in which vicarious liability for the tortious act . .
Appeal fromJGE 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. . .
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 . .
CitedBiffa 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. . .
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 . .

Cited by:
Appeal fromThe 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 . .
CitedCox 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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 15 April 2021; Ref: scu.462536