Rose v Plenty: CA 7 Jul 1975

Contrary to his employers orders, a milkman allowed children to assist him in his milkround. One was injured, and sued the milkman’s employer.
Held: The milkman had not gone so far outside the activities for which he was employed for the employer to escape liability. Lord Scarman said: ‘In words which have frequently been quoted both in the courts and in the universities, Salmond on Torts, 16th ed (1973), p 462, refers to the basis of vicarious liability for accidental damage as being one of public policy. That view is supported by quotations (dated no doubt, but still full of life) of a dictum of Lord Brougham and of another, 100 years or more earlier, of Sir John Holt. That it is ‘socially convenient and rough justice’ to make an employer liable for the torts of his servant in the cases to which the principle applies, was recognised in Limpus v London General Omnibus Co, 1 H and C 526; see the judgment of Willes J at p 539. I think it important to realise that the principle of vicarious liability is one of public policy. It is not a principle which derives from a critical or refined consideration of other concepts in the common law, for example, the concept of trespass or indeed the concept of agency. No doubt in particular cases it may be relevant to consider whether a particular plaintiff was or was not a trespasser. Similarly, when, as I shall indicate, it is important that one should determine the course of employment of the servant, the law of agency may have some marginal relevance. But basically, as I understand it, the employer is made vicariously liable for the tort of his employee not because the plaintiff is an invitee, nor because of the authority possessed by the servant, but because it is a case in which the employer, having put matters into motion, should be liable if the motion which he has originated leads to damage to another. What is the approach which the cases identify as the correct approach in order to determine this question of public policy? First, . . one looks to see whether the servant has committed a tort upon the plaintiff . . The next question . . is whether the employer should shoulder the liability for compensating the person injured by the tort . . [I]t does appear to me to be clear, since the decision of Limpus v London General Omnibus Co, 1 H and C 526, that that question has to be answered by directing attention to what the servant was employed to do when he committed the tort that has caused damage to the plaintiff. The servant was, of course, employed at the time of the accident to do a whole number of operations. He was certainly not employed to give the boy a lift, and if one confines one’s analysis of the facts to the incident of injury to the plaintiff, then no doubt one would say that carrying the boy on the float – giving him a lift – was not in the course of the servant’s employment.’ After referring to Ilkiw. ‘he was employed as a roundsman to drive his float round his round and to deliver milk, to collect empties and to obtain payment. That was his job. . . He chose to disregard the prohibition and to enlist the assistance of the plaintiff. As a matter of common sense, that does seem to me to be a mode, albeit a prohibited mode, of doing the job with which he was entrusted. Why was the plaintiff being carried on the float when the accident occurred? Because it was necessary to take him from point to point so that he could assist in delivering milk, collecting empties and, on occasions obtaining payment.’
(Lawton LJ dissenting)

Scarman LJ, Lord Denning MR,
[1976] 1 WLR 141, [1975] EWCA Civ 5, [1976] 1 All ER 97, [1975] ICR 430
England and Wales
CitedCanadian Pacific Railway Co v Lockhart PC 1941
When considering the imposition of vicarious liability, ‘the first consideration is the ascertainment of what the servant is employed to do.’ (Lord Thankerton) and ‘It is clear that the master is responsible for acts actually authorised by him: for . .
CitedLimpus v London General Omnibus Company CExC 23-Jun-1862
Vicarious Liability – Act on Employers Business
The driver of an omnibus, seeking to disturb the omnibus of another company, drove his own across the path of another. His employers had furnished him and other drivers with a card saying they ‘must not on any account race with or obstruct another . .
Not FollowedTwine v Bean’s Eypress Ltd CA 1946
A driver was engaged to drive his employers’ van, his employers having a contract with the Post Office. When so doing, he gave Mr. Twine a lift from A to B, both offices of the Post Office. The driver had been expressly forbidden to give lifts.
Not FollowedConway v George Wimpey and Co Ltd CA 1951
A number of contractors were employed in work at the Heathrow Airport. The defendant company had instituted a bus service for their own employees and the driver was prohibited by the defendant company from giving lifts to anyone other than their own . .
CitedHarris v Birkenhead Corporation CA 12-Nov-1975
A four year old child had fallen from a second-story window in a derelict house owned by the defendant, and suffered serious injury. The house and others had been purchased by compulsion for intended clearance. The Corporation appealed against a . .
CitedYoung v Edward Box and Co Ltd CA 1951
A lorry driver employed by a firm of contractors on a site where many other contractors were working, contrary to his express instructions, gave an employee of another firm of contractors a lift in his lorry. The passenger was injured and sought to . .
CitedSouthern Portland Cement Ltd v Cooper PC 1974
Since the duty of an occupier towards a trespasser was based not on the relationship forced upon him but on consideration of humanity, the occupier’s duty only arose if he had knowledge of or had created the danger on his land; that no unreasonable . .
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. . .
CitedHern v Nichols 1700
The plaintiff brought an action on the case for deceit, alleging that he bought several parcels of silk under a fraudulent representation by the defendant’s factor that it was another kind of silk. The factor was operating overseas and there was no . .
CitedIqbal v London Transport Executive CA 6-Jun-1973
The court was asked whether the London Transport Executive was liable for the action of a bus conductor in driving contrary to his express instructions a motor bus a short distance in a garage.
Held: The instruction acted as a prohibition . .
CitedHilton v Thomas Burton (Rhodes) Ltd 1961
. .
CitedPlumb v Cobden Flour Mills Co Ltd HL 1914
In looking at restrictions by an employer to limit his vicarious liability, the court must distinguish between prohibitions which limit the sphere of employment and those which only deal with conduct within the sphere of employment:’ ‘there are . .

Cited by:
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 . .
CitedMattis v Pollock (T/A Flamingo’s Nightclub) QBD 24-Oct-2002
The claimant sought damages after being assaulted by a doorman employed by the defendant.
Held: The responsibility of the nightclub owner for the actions of his aggressive doorman was not extinguished by the separation in time and place from . .
CitedMajrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust CA 16-Mar-2005
The claimant had sought damages against his employer, saying that they had failed in their duty to him under the 1997 Act in failing to prevent harassment by a manager. He appealed a strike out of his claim.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The . .
CitedHunter v Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland QBNI 5-Sep-2008
. .
CitedBarings Plc and Another v Coopers and Lybrand (A Firm) and Others ChD 11-Jun-2003
Evans-Lombe J expressed an unwillingness to accept any all-embracing test for what may constitute the breaking of the chain of causation, saying: ‘It seems to me that what will constitute such conduct is so fact-sensitive to the facts of any case . .
CitedBirmingham City Council, Regina (on the Application of) v The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Admn 17-Jun-2005
. .
CitedA v Hoare; H v Suffolk County Council, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs intervening; X and Y v London Borough of Wandsworth CA 12-Apr-2006
Each claimant sought damages for a criminal assault for which the defendant was said to be responsible. Each claim was to be out of the six year limitation period. In the first claim, the proposed defendant had since won a substantial sum from the . .
CitedMohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc SC 2-Mar-2016
The claimant had been assaulted and racially abused as he left a kiosk at the respondent’s petrol station by a member of staff. A manager had tried to dissuade the assailant, and the claim for damages against the supermarket had failed at first . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.214667