Vicarious Liability Set to Extend to Sex Abuse Cases says The Supreme Court

In a case involving a children’s home in Yorkshire, run by the Catholic Child Welfare Society, the Supreme Court have ruled that the courts had “succeeded in developing the law of vicarious liability so as to ensure that a remedy for the harm caused by abuse is provided by those that should fairly bear that liability”.

The headmaster and some teachers of the school were from the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Lord Phillips explained: “Vicarious liability is imposed where a defendant, whose relationship with the abuser put it in a position to use the abuser to carry on its business or to further its own interests, has done so in a manner which has created or significantly enhanced the risk that the victim or victims would suffer the relevant abuse. The essential closeness of connection between the relationship between the defendant and the tortfeasor and the acts of abuse thus involves a strong causative link.”

He added (in the present case) that there was “a very close connection between the relationship between the brothers and the Institute and the employment of the brothers as teachers in the school. Living cloistered on the school premises were vulnerable boys. They were triply vulnerable. They were vulnerable because they were children in a school; they were vulnerable because they were virtually prisoners in the school; and they were vulnerable because their personal histories made it even less likely that if they attempted to disclose what was happening to them they would be believed.”

As a result, the appeal by the Catholic Child Welfare Society against the previous ruling that the Institute could not be vicariously liable was allowed.