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Determining an employer’s liability for injury

Vijay Ganapathy considers the implications of decisions in Cox and Greenway for future cases involving vicarious liability and actionable damage

24 May 2016

Recent cases have seen the courts dealing with some major issues that will likely have wide-ranging implications. An example is the Supreme Court decision in Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10, which further confirms how wide the doctrine of vicarious liability has now become.

Mrs Cox (C) was employed by the Ministry of Justice (M) as a catering manager in a kitchen at HM Prison Swansea. As C bent over to pick something up, a prisoner who worked in the same kitchen tried to go past her carrying two sacks. As he did so, he lost his balance and dropped one of these sacks on C, causing her injury.

It was accepted that the prisoner was negligent, but the main question was whether M could be held vicariously liable. This required consideration of whether the relationship between the prisoner and M was akin to employment.

Some key aspects of the prisoner's relationship to M were noted. The purpose of his working
in the kitchen was not just to help...

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