Lizanne Gumbel QC and Robert Kellar QC appeared before the Supreme Court on 28 November 2019 in an important case concerning the scope of vicarious liability for personal injury in Barclays Bank v Various Claimants.

They are instructed by Slater and Gordon and Shaw & Co to represent 126 claimants seeking damages against Barclays Bank. The group litigation concerns the vicarious liability of a bank for sexual assaults in the 1970s and early 1980s. The alleged assaults were committed in the North East  by a now deceased general practitioner. The assaults occurred during pre-employment health checks of prospective employees. Barclays Bank resist liability on the basis that Dr. Bates was an “independent contractor”.

The Court of Appeal held that the independent contractor “defence” no longer applied. Vicarious liability had to be assessed by reference to the tests affirmed by the Supreme Court in Cox v. MOJ and Armes v. Nottinghamshire CC. The Court held that a “bright line” test based on the status of independent contractors would make the conduct of business easier for parties and their insurers. However, ease of business could not displace or circumvent principles established by the Supreme Court.

The bank’s appeal was heard by Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Kerr, Lord Lloyd Jones and Lord Hodge. More information is available on the Supreme Court website here.