Law and religion round-up – 23rd January

Vicarious liability: where next?

In TVZ and Ors v Manchester City Football Club Ltd [2022] EWHC 7 (QB), Barry Bennell coached for the club but was not employed by it – he was unpaid. He sexually abused a number of boys in the 1980s and they subsequently sued Manchester City. The club accepted that the abuse had occurred and, as a method of alternative dispute resolution, had set up a compensation scheme for Bennell’s victims, but it did not accept vicarious liability for his activities. It also argued that the action was out of time. The claims were dismissed.

On the issue of vicarious liability, Johnson J held that the club was not liable because Bennell’s relationship with the club was not “akin to employment”, for reasons set out at length at [313] to [319]. Interestingly, from the perspective of vicarious liability for sexual abuse in religious communities, he noted Catholic Child Welfare Society & Ors v Various Claimants & The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools & Ors [2012] UKSC 56 and observed that “in the cases of religious organisations, it has been observed that the ‘ties of loyalty and obedience [are] even tighter than those imposed by a contract of employment” [317].

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