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Taking Responsibility: Foster Care, Child Abuse and Vicarious Liability - Liam Ryan, 7 Bedford Row

20/11/17. When dealing with cases of child abuse, strong emotions are stirred in almost all people with clear feeling of right and wrong being arrived at. However, when seeking to compensate an abused party, the question of who should, or can meet a Judgment is a lot more complex, since the culpable individual may have no means with which to satisfy such a Judgment rendering it almost worthless. Accordingly, victims often need to look to other parties to satisfy their claims and this in turn, has led to the consideration of why, or who placed them into the position in which they were abused in the first place. This in turn has led to a fertile and ever developing body of law in the field of vicarious liability.

The Supreme Court on the 18th October 2017 handed down its decision in the case of Armes v Nottinghamshire CC [2017] UKSC 60, a landmark and much awaited decision in the field of child abuse claims. Out of the 5 Lords hearing the appeal, only Lord Hughes dissented in what should be seen as a victory for victims of child abuse.

The facts

The Claimant had been taken into the care of the local authority in February 1985 when she was aged seven. Statutory care orders followed and between March 1985 and March 1986 she was fostered by a Mr and Mrs Allison. Without going into the details of the allegations, Males J at first instance found that she was physically and emotionally abused by Mrs Allison. Between October 1987 and February 1988, she was fostered by a Mr and Mrs Blakely. Males J also found that during that period, she was sexually abused by Mr Blakely.

Notably, in each case, the abuse took place in the foster home in the course of day-to-day care and control of the Claimant. Mrs Allison employed grossly excessive violence to discipline her. Mr Blakely molested her when bathing her and when she was alone in her bedroom. As a result of this the Claimant suffered personal injuries and consequential losses.

The issue before the Supreme Court

It was not suggested that the Defendant was at fault for the selection of the foster carers. The question before the Court was whether the...


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