Phelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council; Anderton v Clwyd County Council; Gower v Bromley London Borough Council; Jarvis v Hampshire County Council: HL 28 Jul 2000

The plaintiffs each complained of negligent decisions in his or her education made by the defendant local authorities. In three of them the Court of Appeal had struck out the plaintiff’s claim and in only one had it been allowed to proceed.
Held: The House unanimously dismissed the local authority’s appeal in that last case but allowed the plaintiff’s appeal in the other three. A local authority can be liable in negligence for its failures to provide appropriate special needs educational support to those it had a duty to educate, and was liable even for the independent acts of its professional agents employed by it for this purpose.
The absence of an express statutory provision for damages was not conclusive, professionals must acknowledge that their decisions have consequences and that their duties lie not only toward their employers. Failure to reduce the consequences of conditions such as dyslexia can constitute a personal injury. A head teacher owes a duty of care to exercise the reasonable skills of a headmaster in relation to such a child’s educational needs and a special advisory teacher brought in to advise on the educational needs of a specific pupil, particularly if he knows that his advice will be communicated to the pupil’s parents, ‘owes a duty to the child to exercise the skill and care of a reasonable advisory teacher.’ and ‘the professionalism, dedication and standards of those engaged in the provision of educational services are such that cases of liability for negligence will be exceptional.’ It was clear in principle that a teacher or educational psychologist could in principle owe a duty of care to a child as well as an employing authority. Valid claims in negligence were not to be excluded because claims which were without foundation or exaggerated might be made. There was no reason to exclude the claims on grounds of public policy alone.


Lord Slynn of Hadley Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle Lord Lloyd of Berwick Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead Lord Clyde Lord Hutton Lord Millett


Times 28-Jul-2000, Gazette 31-Aug-2000, [2000] UKHL 47, [2001] 2 AC 619, [2000] 3 WLR 776, [2000] 4 All ER 504, (2000) 150 NLJ 1198


House of Lords, Bailii


Education Act 1996


England and Wales


Appeal fromPhelps v Mayor and Burgesses London Borough of Hillingdon CA 4-Nov-1998
The plaintiff claimed damages for the negligent failure of an educational psychologist employed by a local authority to identify that the plaintiff was dyslexic.
Held: An educational psychologist has no duty of care to a child, as opposed to . .
ApprovedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
Appeal fromJarvis v Hampshire County Council CA 23-Nov-1999
A child who did not receive sufficient education appropriate to his disability (dyslexia), did not acquire a right to claim in damages against the education authority. This applies both to claims of misfeasance in public office and in negligence. . .
CitedBarrett v London Borough of Enfield CA 25-Mar-1997
A Local Authority is only vicariously liable for the negligence of a social worker to a child in care. . .
CitedW v Essex County Council and Another HL 17-Mar-2000
A foster child was placed with a family. The child had a history of abusing other children, but the foster parents, who had other children were not told. The foster child caused psychiatric damage to the carers.
Held: It was wrong to strike . .

Cited by:

CitedBradford-Smart v West Sussex County Council CA 23-Jan-2002
The claimant sought damages from the school for failing to prevent injuries arising from bullying, which was taking place on the way to and from school, but not at school.
Held: A school has no general obligation to prevent such bullying, but . .
CitedA, B v Essex County Council QBD 18-Dec-2002
The applicants sought damages after they had had placed with them for adoption a child who proved to be destructively hyperactive.
Held: The authority might be liable where they failed to disclose to adoptive parents known characteristics of a . .
AppliedLiennard v Slough Borough Council QBD 15-Mar-2002
The claimant sought damages from the respondents who had been responsible for his education, for having failed to diagnose his learning difficulties. The school had recognised that he was underachieving, but diagnosis as to the reason was not easy. . .
CitedChagos Islanders v The Attorney General, Her Majesty’s British Indian Ocean Territory Commissioner QBD 9-Oct-2003
The Chagos Islands had been a British dependent territory since 1814. The British government repatriated the islanders in the 1960s, and the Ilois now sought damages for their wrongful displacement, misfeasance, deceit, negligence and to establish a . .
CitedA and Another v Essex County Council CA 17-Dec-2003
The claimant sought damages. The respondent had acted as an adoption agency but had failed to disclose all relevant information about the child.
Held: Any such duty extended only during the period where the child was with the prospective . .
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
Appealed toJarvis v Hampshire County Council CA 23-Nov-1999
A child who did not receive sufficient education appropriate to his disability (dyslexia), did not acquire a right to claim in damages against the education authority. This applies both to claims of misfeasance in public office and in negligence. . .
CitedDavid Lannigan v Glasgow City Council OHCS 12-Aug-2004
The pursuer said the teachers employed by the defendant had failed to identify that was dyslexic, leading him to suffer damage. The defenders said the claim was time barred, which the pursuer admitted, but then said that the claim ought to go ahead . .
CitedSingh v Entry Clearance Officer New Delhi CA 30-Jul-2004
The applicant, an 8 year old boy, became part of his Indian family who lived in England, through an adoption recognised in Indian Law, but not in English Law. Though the adoption was genuine, his family ties had not been broken in India. The family . .
CitedAdams v Bracknell Forest Borough Council HL 17-Jun-2004
A attended the defendant’s schools between 1977 and 1988. He had always experienced difficulties with reading and writing and as an adult found those difficulties to be an impediment in his employment. He believed them to be the cause of the . .
CitedKearn-Price v Kent County Council CA 30-Oct-2002
The claimant was injured, being hit in the face by a football in a school playground. It was before school started. There had been accidents, and there were rules which had not been enforced. The school appealed a finding of negligence.
Held: . .
CitedJane Marianne Sandhar, John Stuart Murray v Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions CA 5-Nov-2004
The claimant’s husband died when his car skidded on hoar frost. She claimed the respondent was liable under the Act and at common law for failing to keep it safe.
Held: The respondent had not assumed a general responsibility to all road users . .
CitedCustoms and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc CA 22-Nov-2004
The claimant had obtained judgment against customers of the defendant, and then freezing orders for the accounts. The defendants inadvertently or negligently allowed sums to be transferred from the accounts. The claimants sought repayment by the . .
CitedCarty v London Borough of Croydon CA 27-Jan-2005
The claimant sought damages in negligence from education officers employed by the respondent. He appealed refusal of his claim. A statement of special education needs had been made which he said did not address his learning difficulties. The . .
CitedJD v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust and others HL 21-Apr-2005
Parents of children had falsely and negligently been accused of abusing their children. The children sought damages for negligence against the doctors or social workers who had made the statements supporting the actions taken. The House was asked if . .
CitedWest Bromwich Albion Football Club Ltd v El-Safty QBD 14-Dec-2005
The claimant sought damages from the defendant surgeon alleging negligent care of a footballer. The defendant argued that he had no duty to the club as employer of his patient who was being treated through his BUPA membership. It would have created . .
CitedHM Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc HL 21-Jun-2006
The claimant had served an asset freezing order on the bank in respect of one of its customers. The bank paid out on a cheque inadvertently as to the order. The Commissioners claimed against the bank in negligence. The bank denied any duty of care. . .
See AlsoRhiannon Anderton v Clwyd County Council (2) QBD 25-Jul-2001
The claim form had been issued only just before the limitation period expired. Under the rules it would have been deemed to have been served on a Sunday, the day before the expiry of the period, but evidence suggested it was not received until after . .
See AlsoAnderton v Clwyd County Council (No 2); Bryant v Pech and Another Dorgan v Home Office; Chambers v Southern Domestic Electrical Services Ltd; Cummins v Shell International Manning Services Ltd CA 3-Jul-2002
In each case, the applicant sought to argue that documents which had actually been received on a certain date should not be deemed to have been served on a different day because of the rule.
Held: The coming into force of the Human Rights Act . .
CitedBowden and Another v Lancashire County Council CA 16-Apr-2002
The claimant had succeeded in her appeal against the cancellation of her registration as a child minder, and now sought damages for negligence in using unnecessarily the emergency procedure leading to damage to the claimant’s reputation and . .
CitedJain and Another v Trent Strategic Health Authority CA 22-Nov-2007
The claimant argued that the defendant owed him a duty of care as proprietor of a registered nursing home in cancelling the registration of the home under the 1984 Act. The authority appealed a finding that it owed such a duty.
Held: The . .
CitedK v Central and North West London Mental Health NHS Trust and Another QBD 30-May-2008
The claimant appealed against an order striking out his claim in negligence. He had leaped from a window in a suicide attempt. The accommodation was provided by the defendant whilst caring for him under the 1983 Act.
Held: The case should be . .
CitedConnor v Surrey County Council CA 18-Mar-2010
The claimant teacher said that she suffered personal injury from stress after the board of governors improperly failed to protect her from from false complaints. The Council now appealed against an award of substantial damages.
Held: The . .
CitedHome Office v Mohammed and Others CA 29-Mar-2011
The claimants sought damages saying that after a decision had been made that they should receive indefinite leave to remain in 2001 (latest), the leave was not issued until 2007 (earliest) thus causing them severe losses. The defendant now appealed . .
CitedSiddiqui v University of Oxford QBD 5-Dec-2016
The University applied to have struck out the claim by the claimant for damages alleging negligence in its teaching leading to a lower class degree than he said he should have been awarded.
Held: Strike out on the basis that the claim was . .
CitedRobinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police SC 8-Feb-2018
Limits to Police Exemption from Liability
The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal . .
CitedPoole Borough Council v GN and Another SC 6-Jun-2019
This appeal is concerned with the liability of a local authority for what is alleged to have been a negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties. The principal question of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Local Government, Education, Vicarious Liability, Professional Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 11 February 2022; Ref: scu.84699