The changes to personal injury law announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Spending Review have already raised considerable controversy. Claims for damages for whiplash injuries are to be abolished (along it seem with claims for all low value minor soft tissue injuries incurred in road accidents). In addition, the small claims limit for personal injury cases is to be increased from the current £1,000 to £5,000.
As a result of the latter change, a much greater number of personal injury cases will be determined in a procedure under which a winning claimant will be unable to recover any costs. The purpose of this comment is not to consider the immediate implications of these changes, but rather to ask what they tell us about how the personal injury system is likely to develop in the future. (more…)
“To search for certainty and precision in vicarious liability is to undertake a quest for a chimaera”: Lord Dyson (Mohamud)
On 2 March 2016, the Supreme Court delivered two judgments which it described as “complementary to each other” on the controversial topic of vicarious liability in tort. Vicarious liability imposes strict liability on an employer for the wrongful actions of (usually) its employees which are committed in the course of his or her employment. Recently, however, as Lord Phillips (former President of the Supreme Court) stated in the case of Various Claimants v Catholic Child Welfare Society  UKSC 56 (“the Christian Brothers case”), “the law of vicarious liability is on the move.” Since 2001, it has been an area of law subject to expansion. The question on appeal to the Supreme Court was essentially how far this expansion would go, examining, in particular:
The relationship needed to give rise to vicarious liability. This was examined in Cox v Ministry of Justice  UKSC 10.
The manner in which the wrongful acts of the employee have to be related to the relationship giving rise to vicarious liability – in other words, were the employee’s torts so closely connected with his employment that it would be just to hold the employers liable? This was examined in Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc  UKSC 11.
Both judgments are short and unanimous. Neither claim, however, to provide absolute tests, taking the view that a lack of precision is inevitable, given the infinite range of circumstances where the issues arise. (more…)