Sea Shepherd UK v Fish and Fish Ltd: SC 4 Mar 2015

Accessory Liability in Tort

The court considered the concept of accessory liability in tort. Activists had caused damage to vessels of the respondent which was transporting live tuna in cages, and had caused considerable damage. The appellant company owned the ship from which the attacks were made, but denied direct involvement in or responsibility for the damage caused.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The Justices agreed on the law, but only a majority upheld the appeal on the facts.
Toulson L said that a defendant will be jointly liable for the tortious acts of the principal if the defendant: (i) acts in a way which furthers the commission of the tort by the principal; and, (ii) does so in pursuance of a common design to do or secure the doing of the acts which constitute the tort.
Sumption L agreed that a defendant will be jointly liable if: (i) he has assisted the commission of the tort by another person; (ii) it is pursuant to a common design; and, (iii) an act is done which is, or turns out to be, tortious


Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Sumption, Lord Toulson


[2015] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 593, [2015] 4 All ER 247, [2015] 1 AC 1229, [2015] 2 WLR 694, [2015] 2 All ER (Comm) 867, [2015] UKSC 10, [2015] WLR(D) 102, UKSC 2013/0133


Bailii, WLRD, Bailii Summary, SC, SC Summary




CitedThe Koursk CA 1924
The navigators of two ships had committed two separate torts or one tort in which they were both tortfeasors.
Held: Three situations were identified where A might be jointly liable with B for B’s tortious act. Where A was master and B servant; . .
CitedCBS Songs Ltd v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc CA 1987
Persons other than the Attorney General do not have standing to enforce, through a civil court, the observance of the criminal law as such. However, Sir Denys Buckley considered that such a claim might be maintained as a representative action . .
CitedCBS Songs Ltd v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc HL 12-May-1988
The plaintiffs as representatives sought to restrain Amstrad selling equipment with two cassette decks without taking precautions which would reasonably ensure that their copyrights would not be infringed by its users.
Held: Amstrad could only . .
CitedUnilever Plc v Gillette (UK) Limited CA 1989
Unilever claimed infringement of its patent. The court was asked whether there was a good arguable case against the United States parent company of the existing defendant sufficient to justify the parent company to be joined as a defendant and to . .
At first instanceFish and Fish Ltd v Sea Shepherd UK and Another AdCt 25-Jun-2012
The claimant company was engaged in tuna fish culture off shore to Malta. The defendant ship was owned by a charity which campaigned against breaches of animal preservation conventions. Fish were being transporting live blue fin tuna in towed . .
CitedGenerale Bank Nederland Nv (Formerly Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland Nv) v Export Credit Guarantee Department CA 23-Jul-1997
The bank claimed that it had been defrauded, and that since an employee of the defendant had taken part in the fraud the defendant was had vicarious liability for his participation even though they knew nothing of it.
Held: Where A becomes . .
CitedSABAF SpA v MFI Furniture Centres Ltd and Another CA 11-Jul-2002
The appellant challenged dismissal of its claim for patent infringement. The judge had held that the design was obvious, involving essentially only the collocation of two known features.
Held: Collocation was no more than a species of . .
Appeal fromFish and Fish Ltd v Sea Shepherd Uk and Others CA 16-May-2013
The claimant company sought damages after their transport of live tuna was attacked by a protest group. They now appealed against a decision that the company owning the attacking ship was not liable as a joint tortfeasor.
Held: The appeal was . .
CitedBelegging-en Exploitatiemaatschappij Lavender BV v Witten Industrial Diamonds Ltd 1979
The defendants sold diamond grit allegedly for the sole purpose of making grinding tools in which it was to be embedded in a resin bond as part of a grinding material patented by the plaintiffs.
Held: The defendants could not be infringers . .
CitedMead Corporation and Another v Riverwood Multiple Packaging Division of Riverwood Etc ChD 28-Mar-1997
The Court must have evidence of a foreign company’s involvement in an infringement before a joinder could be ordered. . .
CitedAubrey Max Sandman v Panasonic UK Limited, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd PatC 21-Jan-1998
Application by Panasonic to have claim of copyright infringement of a circuit diagram struck out as vexatious.
Held: There was a good arguable case for inferring participation in a common design between a parent company and its subsidiary . .
CitedMonsanto Plc v Tilly and Others CA 30-Nov-1999
A group carried out direct action in protesting against GM crops by pulling up the plants. The group’s media liaison officer, while not actually pulling up plants himself, ‘reconnoitred the site the day before. He met the press at a prearranged . .
CitedCream Holdings Limited and others v Banerjee and others HL 14-Oct-2004
On her dismissal from the claimant company, Ms Banerjee took confidential papers revealing misconduct to the local newspaper, which published some. The claimant sought an injunction to prevent any further publication. The defendants argued that the . .

Cited by:

CitedSecretary of State for Health and Another v Servier Laboratories Ltd and Others SC 2-Jul-2021
Economic tort of causing loss by unlawful means
The Court was asked whether the ‘dealing requirement’ is a constituent part of the tort of causing loss by unlawful means; whether a necessary element of the unlawful means tort is that the unlawful means should have affected the third party’s . .
CitedBarclay-Watt and Others v Alpha Panareti Public Ltd and Another CA 19-Aug-2022
. .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 20 August 2022; Ref: scu.543802