The Claimant, a catering manger at HMP Swansea, was injured during the course of her employment by the negligence of prisoner undertaking paid kitchen work under her supervision.
The Claimant had been supervising six prisoners carrying out paid kitchen work in the prison, as they carried food from a delivery van to the first floor kitchen. One dropped a 25 kg bag of rice which burst, spilling its contents over the floor. The Claimant ordered all the prisoners to stop moving before kneeling down to secure the bag. She was just about to straighten up when two bags of rice fell onto her upper back. A prisoner, Mr Inder, had dropped the bags off his shoulder onto the catering manager's back when he hit his head on the wall and lost his balance as he walked past.
It was accepted that the accident was caused by the negligence of Mr Inder.
At trial at Swansea County Court the Claimant’s claim was dismissed. The trial Judge concluded that the MOJ was not vicariously liable for the actions of the prisoner, Mr Inder. He also rejected an alternative plea that the Ministry of Justice should be held liable for failing to ensure the prisoner was trained in manual handling as this was not of causal relevance to the accident which arose out of the prisoner's own actions.
The Claimant appealed.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal on the basis that the trial Judge was wrong to hold that the Defendant was not vicariously liable for the negligence of Mr Inder. The relationship between the MOJ and the prisoner kitchen staff was closer than that of the usual employee/employer relationship. The kitchen work carried out by the prisoner was essential to the functioning of the prison and benefitted the MOJ. There was no reason that the MOJ should not take on the burden of the prisoner’s work as well as the benefit. The MOJ was therefore vicariously liable.