Institute that supplied teachers to school is not vicariously liable for abuse of pupils.

A large number of Claimants alleged that they had been physically and/or sexually abused by staff at St William’s School in Market Weighton. At the times the abuse was alleged, the school was constituted either as an approved school or an assisted community home under the legislation current at the time. In each of those constitutions it had a board of managers. The headmaster and some of the teachers were supplied by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (the Institute). At first instance the High Court held that the board of managers would be vicariously liable for any abuse that was established, but the Institute would not.


The Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision. A careful analysis of the responsibility for management of the school was carried out. The discipline imposed by the Institute on its Brothers, the control over their activities and the Institute’s concern that its mission was carried out at the school were all considered. The principles set out in the leading House of Lords’ decision of Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2001] were applied. It was held that, whilst the headmaster and staff were supplied to the school by the Institute, the Institute was not undertaking the task of managing the school. Even though the lives of the Brothers were controlled by the Institute, it did not follow that its interest in the school was such as to attract the operation of the principle of vicarious liability for Brothers working there.


The Court of Appeal highlighted that whether or not vicarious liability exists in any particular case depends on the relationship between the defendant parties. Thereafter an examination of the act or omission in question and the connection to the Defendant liable for such an act or omission has to be considered. Both issues are fact/case sensitive.

Argument was also made with regard to dual concurrent vicarious liability which arises when 2 Defendants would be liable for the same tort of a third party. The Court of Appeal held that for such liability to arise there has to be dual/shared control over the tortfeasor. The Court of Appeal was satisfied that in this case the Institute did not have shared control over the act/omissions of the Brothers whilst employed by the school.