The Supreme Court has overturned a decision that a bank was vicariously liable to claimants suing in respect of alleged sexual assaults by a doctor carrying out pre-employment medical examinations.
The doctor was an independent contractor carrying out (mostly) pre-employment medical examinations for Barclays Bank, up to the mid-80s. He did so at his home where he had a consulting room, and the bank paid him a fee for each examination. Many of the bank recruits were females aged 15 or 16. The doctor died in 2009. He also did medical examinations for a different employer (a mining company) and an insurance company, and carried out sessions at local hospitals.
In Various claimants v Barclays Bank plc www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2020/13.html the Supreme Court held that on the facts Barclays Bank was not vicariously liable for the doctor’s actions.
The court said the key question was whether the tortfeasor (the doctor) was carrying on business on his own account or whether he was in a relationship akin to employment with the defendant (the bank). Here the doctor was carrying on business on his own account.