Recent Health and Safety cases round-up

United Kingdom

Dual Vicarious Liability:Viasystems (Tyneside) Ltd v Thermal Transfer (Northern) Ltd & Others [2005] EWCA Civ 1151

In a landmark ruling changing two centuries of established principle, the Court of Appeal has decided that two employers can both be vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee.

The claim related to a flooding at Viasystem’s factory caused by a fitter’s mate (Mr Strang), who had crawled through a duct and damaged a sprinkler system. The first defendant (installer of air conditioning) had sub-contracted ducting work to the second defendant. The second defendant contracted with the third defendant to provide fitters and fitters’ mates (who included Mr Strang) on a labour only basis.

It was agreed that the claimant was entitled to recover in contract from the first defendant. The claimant also claimed against the second and third defendants (and the first defendant likewise claimed an indemnity against each).

In the Court of Appeal the issue was whether the second and third defendants could both be vicariously liable for Mr Strang’s negligent acts.

It held that there was no binding authority which excluded two parties being vicariously liable for the breach of duty, and that it arose in this case both ‘employers’ were entitled to exercise control over Strang’s work. As the extent of this control was the same for both defendants, and either could have prevented Mr Strang’s actions, they each had to bear half the damages awarded.

Donaldson v Hays Distribution Services Ltd [2005]
SLT 733

The recent decision in the Scottish courts in the case of Donaldson v Hays Distribution Services Ltd has clarified an important question about the liability of premises owners and occupiers.

The Claimant was a customer at a shopping centre where she was crushed against a wall of a loading bay by a lorry. The claimant argued that the Defenders, who were alleged to have been in control of the loading bay, were in breach of Regulations 17(1) and 17(2) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which were enacted in the UK in order to implement the EU Workplace Directive. These Regulations require in essence that every workplace should be organised in such a way that pedestrians and persons are protected from vehicle movements.

This article first appeared in our Construction and development legal update Spring 2006. To view this publication, please click here to open it as a pdf in a new window