Vicarious Liability

April 1st, 2020 by James Goudie KC

The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed appeals in WM Morrisons Supermarkets v Various Claimants (2020) UKSC 12 and in Barclays Bank v Various Claimants (2020) UKSC 13. No vicarious liability in either case. The former concerned an employee, the latter an independent contractor. Vicarious liability applies to employees and near employees. It does not apply to classic independent contractors.

In the case of employees, in order for the employer to be vicariously liable the employee’s act must be within the “ordinary course of employment”, the employee’ “field of activities”, which will not be the case if it is an act that the employee is not authorised to do. The fact that the employment gives the opportunity to commit the wrongful act is not sufficient to establish vicarious liability. An employer is not normally vicariously liable where the employee was engaged not in furthering the employer’s interests but in pursuing personal reasons such as a personal vendetta.

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