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General Engineering v Kingston & St Andrews Corporation

[1988] 3 All ER 867

Case summary last updated at 20/01/2020 18:12 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case General Engineering v Kingston & St Andrews Corporation

Firemen, X, employed by D, had an industrial dispute and resolved on a “go-slow”. They took much longer to reach a fire at P’s property, therefore, P’s property was damaged much more than it otherwise would have been. P sued D (the employer) on the grounds of vicarious liability. HL denied that D could be liable here. 
 
Lord Ackner: One is acting within the “course of business” if one (1) does a wrongful act, authorised by the master; or (2) does a wrongful act, authorised by the master but in a manner that is unauthorised. Here, X was acting wrongfully and without authorisation and therefore not in the course of employment. NB he says that by the time they arrived they were so late and impotent to prevent the damage that they might as well have stayed away and therefore they did not simply act in an unauthorised manner but, in not responding, they did an unauthorised act (not responding to a fire in breach of contract). NB it is a fragile distinction between “manner” and an act itself- here they did respond, but simply in a manner that frustrated the purpose of their employment. 

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