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GDL Law Notes GDL Tort Law Notes

Employer's Liability Notes

Updated Employer's Liability Notes

GDL Tort Law Notes

GDL Tort Law

Approximately 591 pages

A collection of the best GDL notes the director of Oxbridge Notes (an Oxford law graduate) could find after combing through applications from top students and carefully evaluating each on accuracy, formatting, logical structure, spelling/grammar, conciseness and "wow-factor". In short these are what we believe to be the strongest set of GDL notes available in the UK this year. This collection of GDL notes is fully updated for recent exams, also making them the most up-to-date GDL study materials ...

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Tort Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Employer’s Liability


Two types of employer’s liability:

  • Vicarious liability: liability for an employee committed against a fellow worker / member of the public

  • Primary liability: liability of the employer for a non-delegable personal duty

Employer’s liability is a big area of tort law because employers are insured, and potentially because there are a lot of accidents in the work place

  • Statutory breach: there is no civil remedy available for breach of a statutory duty unless the statute can be interpreted as providing one expressly – thus the employer’s duty of care exists separately from their statutory duty

Primary Liability

A non-delegable duty = a common law duty to employees to see that reasonable care is taken with them. If it is delegated this will not negative primary liability

Wilsons and Clyde Coal

Injury sustained in a mine & claim in negligence against employer. Employer argued that the person in charge was negligent, but they had taken reasonable care in employing the correct person

Held: this was a personal duty and couldn’t be delegated to avoid liability, even if the delegated person is appointed with due care and skill

Established threefold duty:

  1. To provide competent staff

  2. To provide workers with adequate materials/tools

  3. To provide a proper system of work and effective supervision

This revolves around the central premise to take reasonable care of the worker.

This duty is owed to individual employees:

This means that the duty will be to differing standards dependent on the employee’s particular vulnerabilities (see Paris v Stepney Borough Council (above) where it was held that the employee should have been provided with safety goggles because of his partial blindness)

Employer’s knowledge of risks:

Stokes v Guest Keen – physical harm

Mineral oil which eventually caused him to develop cancer. Employer knew of risk & failed to mitigate it

Held: the test is of the reasonable employer taking positive thought for the safety of his workers in light of what he knows or ought to know. Common practice will usually suffice, unless it is obviously bad according to common sense. Greater knowledge of the risks means he but go above the standard precautions.

Baker Refractories (below) – psychiatric harm

Competent Staff

Employer has a duty to employ reasonably competent staff

Scenarios amounting to breach:

  • Hiring employees incapable of performing their job

Butler v Fife Coal

Mine injury caused by inexperienced worker appointed to dangerous activities

Held: alongside the statutory duty exists the common law duty to take reasonable care of workers, here breached by employing the incompetent staff member

  • Hiring employees who they know or ought to know are practical jokers

Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing

Practical joker employee, whom the employer knew of, threw the claimant onto the floor

Held: the employers were negligent by failing to stop this staff member – so the breach of duty here was both hiring the practical joker, and “failing to remove the source of danger” once appointed

  • Hiring employees who bully or sexually harass staff

Harrison v Lawrence Murphy

Sexual harassment & bullying

Held: this was a failure to provide competent staff

Adequate Materials & Equipment

The duty to provide a safe place of work includes a duty to take reasonable care to provide “proper appliances and to maintain them in proper condition” (Smith v Baker per Lord Herschell)

Davie v New Merton Board Mills

C using a faulty tool which had been negligently manufactured, however the employer had bought it from a reputable manufacturer & maintained it

Held: the employer could not reasonably be held liable here; liability lay with the manufacturer of defective goods

Employers Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 (after Davie):

  • A defective piece of equipment due to fault of manufacturer will now be attributable to the employer

  • This has been interpreted as a breed of vicarious liability, not a breach of the primary duty to take reasonable care

Definition of equipment:

Coltman v Bibby

Ship went down C onboard

Held: the ship was interpreted as a piece of equipment by the courts & the employer was held liable, applying the statute, despite the fact the ship was built negligently

Safe System of Work

  • “the physical layout of the job, the sequence in which work is to be carried out, the provision of warnings and notices and the issue of special instructions” Speed v Thomas Swift per Lore Greene

Safety procedures:

McDermid v Nash: an employer’s duty is not just to provide a safe system of work but must also make sure that it is used

Qualcast v Haynes

Experienced moulder dropped molten metal on foot whilst wearing protective footwear

Held: (HL) failure to ensure wearing of safety equipment is not a presumption of negligence, however, this is a factual analysis. Here the experience of the employee & obviousness of risk meant it was not unreasonable

Yorkshire Traction v Walker Searby

Bus driver assaulted by passenger arguing that there should have been a screen partition

Held: whilst common practice is not determinative, and workers’ own ideas about safe systems also so, here the Union’s opinion that screens were unnecessary would have influenced a reasonable employer. The magnitude of the risk was also small.

Coxall v Goodyear Great Britain

C had asthma working for goodyear and continued working despite doctor’s warnings as he loved his job. Evidence that he wouldn’t have moved even if goodyear had offered him another role

Held: the production line itself was safe, but the employer should have been alerted by the doctor’s warnings to his health. One judge argued that they should have sacked him for his own good. Other reasoning centred around the fact they should’ve discussed other options with him once they were aware of the risk

NB: this seems to place a very heavy burden on employers; the claimant wouldn’t have moved...

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