The owner of a car appealed against a ruling that she was responsible for injury suffered by the three respondents who had been passengers in the car when it crashed. The owner had not been with them. The care was driven by her husband with her permission, but whilst he was not fit to drive through drink. He had died in the accident. The House considered whether it had the ability to make a ruling which was effective as to the future only. The respondents argued that a special rule should exist for drivers of motor cars.
Held: The appeal succeeded. Lord Wilberforce said: ‘We cannot, without yet further innovation, change the law prospectively only’. A vehicle owner is vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver when, but only when the driver is the agent of the owner, in the sense that he is using it for the owner’s delegated purpose.
Lord Wilberforce, Viscount Dilhorne, Lord Pearson, Lord Cross of Chelsea, Lord Salmon
 UKHL 5,  AC 127
England and Wales
Appeal from – Launchbury v Morgans CA 1971
The wife owned the car. The husband who had drunk to excess drove the car with her permission, causing severe injury to the passengers and his own death. She was not present.
Held: From considerations of policy, as the owner of the family car . .
Cited – Ormrod v Crosville Motor Services Ltd CA 2-Jan-1953
A friend drove the owner’s car from Birkenhead to Monte Carlo, carrying with him a suitcase belonging to the car owner, so that the two of them could go on holiday with the car in Switzerland. The basis of the finding of vicarious liability on the . .
Cited – National Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
Cited – Various Claimants v The Catholic Child Welfare Society and Others CA 26-Oct-2010
Child sexual abuse was alleged by 150 claimants against staff members of a community home with teachers supplied by the defendants. The court had asked whether they had vicarious liability for the acts of their staff, and now whether the board of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 25 July 2021; Ref: scu.228278