On appeal from: [2015] EWCA Civ 1139

The appellant was in the care of the respondent local authority from the ages of seven to eighteen. During this time she was physically, emotionally and sexually abused by foster parents.

By a majority of 4-1, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal, holding that the local authority was vicariously liable in respect of abuse perpetrated by the foster parents (applying Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10), and even though the local authority was not negligent in connection with the foster placements. Foster parents are not carrying on a business of their own. The abuse committed by the foster parents was committed in the course of an activity carried on for the benefit of the local authority; the placement created a risk of abuse;  the local authority exercised a significant degree of control over the foster parents – powers of approval, inspection, supervision and removal; the local authority had the means to pay damages; and there was no evidence that imposing liability would discourage local authorities from using foster parents.

The argument that the local authority were liable on the basis of a non-delegable duty was rejected. Such a proposition was too broad, and fixed local authorities with too demanding a responsibility.

For judgment, please download: [2017] UKSC 60
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court website (8 Feb 2017 morning session), (8 Feb 2017 afternoon session), (9 Feb 2017 morning session), (9 Feb 2017 afternoon session).