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  • Mariel Irvine

Owl phobia

There have been some tantalising decisions associated with vicarious liability since my book was published last November. Some organisations and their insurers have successfully argued against vicarious liability.

A GP practice was not vicariously liable for the negligence of a self-employed locum who had introduced a vulnerable patient to his Christian faith and arranged for her to attend a religious meeting where she had developed a phobia of owls. The High Court decided that religious instruction was no part of the business of the practice.

A financial advice company was not vicariously liable for losses resulting from a fraudulent Ponzi scheme operated by its appointed representative. The representative company had hidden the scheme from the financial advice company, which had first become aware of it when one of the representative’s employees blew the whistle. The financial company had then terminated the relationship immediately. The Commercial Court decided the appointed representative had been carrying out an independent business of its own.

A principal may be vicariously liable for the fraudulent misrepresentations of its agent only if the conduct was in the agent’s actual or ostensible authority. The Court of Appeal decided the trial judge had applied the wrong test when deciding to impose vicarious liability. The judge had considered whether there was a sufficiently close connection between the agent’s wrongdoing and the acts he was employed to perform.

Finally, claimants from villages in Sierra Leone claimed damages from a UK mining company for personal injury and other losses suffered during two protests. They argued the company was vicariously liable for torts committed by Sierra Leone Police when defending the company. The High Court held the officers were performing duties that extended far beyond the narrow business parameters of the mining company and there was no vicarious liability.

Do not hesitate to contact Mariel on 020 7608 2275 for more information.

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