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Case Law

Vicarious liability for a third party

An organisation can be held accountable for the actions of a third party if those actions are sufficiently linked to the duties carried out on behalf of the organisation.

Various v Barclays Bank Plc [High Court] | 2017

The Facts

Barclays contracted with a doctor to carry out pre-employment medical assessments and in some cases medical assessments of employees between 1968 and 1984.  The doctor was not employed by the Bank and carried out other work for other organisations.

During the assessments, which took place at a consulting room in the doctor’s home, the doctor was alleged to have sexually assaulted a number of young girls, who now sought to hold the Bank liable for the actions of the doctor, the doctor having died in 2009.

The Bank denied liability on the basis that the doctor was not employed by them and he was not carrying out work that was part of its business, namely banking.

The Decision

The High Court concluded that the Bank was liable and concluded that:

  1. The doctor was in a relationship with the Bank akin to employment because his activities were on behalf of the Bank. The doctor was under the Bank’s control and it directed him regarding the questions and assessments he must carry out on the Bank’s employees.
  2. The alleged assaults were sufficiently closely connected to the duties the doctor was engaged to carry out on behalf of the Bank.

In Practice

This case reviewed the case law development of vicarious liability and the shift in the nature of the relationship between organisations and those carrying out work for them over the years.  The case specifically referred to the need to strike a balance between the need for individuals to be compensated and the need to protect organisations against claims, responsibility for which does not rightly sit with them.

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