Vicarious liability – the noose tightens: Mohamud and Cox

Introduction

The Supreme Court has handed down two linked judgments on vicarious liability: Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc [2016] UKSC 11 and Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10. Cox, in particular, is of interest to students of law and religion because, in the course of delivering the unanimous judgment of the Court, Lord Reed JSC revisited the principles laid down by Lord Phillips PSC in Various Claimants v Catholic Child Welfare Society [2012] UKSC 56 – aka the Christian Brothers case.

Background

Mrs Cox was catering manager at HM Prison Swansea in day-to-day charge of all aspects of catering, including the operation of the kitchen, which had four members of staff and provided work for about 20 prisoners [4]. In 2007 a prisoner, Mr Inder, lost his balance while attempting to carry two sacks of rice and dropped one on Mrs Cox. She sued for the resulting back injury and it was accepted that Mr Inder had been negligent [5]. In May 2013 HHJ Keyser QC concluded that the accident had occurred because Mr Inder had failed to take reasonable care for Mrs Cox’s safety – but he dismissed her claim on the basis that the Prison Service was not vicariously liable for Mr Inder’s negligence. As Lord Reed explained the decision at first instance: Continue reading