Cox: Ministry of Justice back in the Supreme Court

Lady Hale and Lords Reed and Toulson will hand down the court’s decision in Cox v Ministry of Justice on 2 March 2016. On the face it, this appears to be a straightforward employers’ liability (EL) claim involving injury to a member of prison staff. However since the accident was caused by a prisoner’s negligence, rather than that of another employee, the MoJ (as employer) has chosen to test the scope of vicarious liability in that setting. The case is being considered along with another vicarious liability claim, Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets, which involved an unprovoked and serious assault by an employee on a customer. Our report on the joint hearing in October 2015 is available here.

Three questions look likely to be resolved by the decision on 2 March.

  1. Whether the Supreme Court uses these cases as an opportunity to redefine the scope of vicarious liability generally or whether it limits its findings to both sets of facts.
  2. The persuasive weight of the 2013 Scottish case Vaickuviene v J Sainsbury Plc, an EL claim brought by the partner of an employee murdered by one of his co-workers. [The claim was  dismissed because “it cannot be said that the harassment of the deceased by (X) was so closely connected to the nature of his employment that it would be fair and just to hold the employer responsible.”]
  3. Finally, whether the MoJ is likely to do any better in this case than the 7-0 decision against it by the Supreme Court in another prison EL claim earlier this week, that being Knauer v Ministry of Justice (a decision in which Lady Hale and Lords Reed and Toulson were also involved).

About the Author

akAlistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.

Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).

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