Veale Wasbrough Vizards

UK 200 2013 position: 98

Where could a non-delegable duty of care occur? Woodland v Essex County Council

By Tabitha Cave

The question of where a non-delegable duty of care occurs has been addressed in the recent case of Woodland v Essex County Council [2013] UKSC 66.

Ordinarily, an employer is only liable for torts committed by an employee in the course of their employment. However, where there is a ‘non-delegable duty of care’, they may be liable for torts committed by an independent contractor. The question of where this applies has recently come to the forefront in the case of Woodland v Essex County Council [2013] UKSC 66.

In 2000, a 10-year-old girl suffered a serious hypoxic brain injury after getting into difficulties during a swimming lesson. Neither the teacher nor the lifeguard was employed by the education authority, but by an independent contractor. The issue was whether the authority owed the appellant a ‘non-delegable duty of care’. If so, it would be liable for any negligence by the teacher or lifeguard…

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