In JPM and ors v. Nugent Care Society; GR v. Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council [2009] EWCA Civ 827, the Court of Appeal explained, for the first time, the significance of the landmark decisions in A v. Hoare and Lister v. Hesley Hall (see our Guidance Note on Hoare (also discussing Lister) by clicking here) in revolutionising the landscape for abuse claims in the UK. Abuse claims have led to a raft of increasingly expensive settlements in the US and it would seem that the UK is heading in the same direction (see for example the £5m claim against governors of a Jesuit school, previously reported here). The combined impact of Hoare and Lister is to make it much easier for abuse victims to bring claims where the abuse occurred many decades ago (typically in care homes or schools in the 1960s and 1970s).

  1. In this, the most recent of a string of abuse cases post Hoare, the Court of Appeal recognised that the environment was now much easier for victims of historic abuse to bring claims. The Court of Appeal commented that this was for the following reasons:
  2. The effect of Lister was that the claimant did not now need to establish systematic negligence on the part of the particular institution concerned, which is often difficult to prove. Instead, the claimant need merely establish that the institution was vicariously liable for the actions of the abuser, which is much easier to establish because the claimant need not prove that the institution was at fault in anyway.

The effect of Hoare was that the limitation period applicable to abuse claims could now be dis-applied by the exercise of the court's discretion. A crucial factor in exercising its discretion was that the claimant had been inhibited from bringing a claim due to the psychological injuries which had been suffered as a result of the abuse. This meant that, potentially, claims relating to abuse occurring decades ago could now proceed. The Court of Appeal's comments reflect the growing consensus that the effect of Hoare (compounded by Lister) is to turn abuse claims into a new long tail liability for institutions typically facing such claims and for the insurers of such institutions.