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The Scope of Vicarious Liability

Barclays Bank plc has been held vicariously liable for sexual assaults committed by a doctor engaged to carry out medical examination for job applicants.

In reaching the decision in various Claimants v Barclays Bank plc, the High Court applied the following two-stage test:

  1. Whether the relationship between Barclays and the doctor was one of employment or ‘akin to employment’; and
  2. Whether there was a sufficiently close connection between the assaults and the relationship between Barclays and the doctor.

Applying the five criteria identified in Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016], the assaults had been committed as a result of activity being undertaken by the doctor on behalf of Barclays, and the doctor was under the control of Barclays as they could direct what he did, even if they didn’t direct him how he should do it.

In respect of the second limb of the test, there was a sufficiently close connection as the assaults were inextricably interwoven with the carrying out of the doctor’s duties.

Finally, it was fair, just and reasonable to impose vicarious liability as this was now the Claimants’ sole legal recourse, even though this was due to the claim being brought many years after the alleged assaults.