Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council [2017] UKSC 60

The Claimant had been in the care of the Defendant council between the ages of 7 and 18. During that time she had been placed with two sets of foster parents. She was physically and emotionally abused during her first placement, and sexually abused during her second. In both instances the abuse took place within the foster homes. The Claimant brought a claim in negligence on the basis of two arguments: either the Defendant council owed the Claimant a non-delegable duty of care, or it was vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of the foster parents.

The Supreme Court held that the council did not have a duty of care to provide day to day care to children, which would be too broad. Their duty was to take reasonable care in selecting foster parents and supervising those placements. There had been no negligence in the performance of that duty. Therefore, the claim for negligence in the performance of a non-delegable duty could not stand.

However, the Supreme Court found in the Claimant’s favour on the issue of vicarious liability. Applying the five factors set down by the Supreme Court in Cox v Ministry of Justice in 2016, the Court held that the foster parents were not carrying on an independent business of their own and that the acts had been committed in the course of an activity conducted for the council’s benefit; the council’s placement created a relationship of authority and trust between foster parents and children, rendering the latter vulnerable to abuse; the council exercised a significant degree of control over what foster parents did and how they did it; and that councils are more likely to be able to satisfy any compensation granted to victims than foster parents with insufficient means. The Court emphasised that when assessing vicarious liability, the role of control should not be exaggerated and that vicarious liability may be imposed in the absence of close supervision.

November 15, 2017 В· Editorial Team В· Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases