Employer liable to employee for negligence of non-employee prisoner working in kitchen

In Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10, the Supreme Court held that the Ministry of Justice was vicariously liable for the negligence of a prisoner who, while working in the prison kitchens, dropped a sack of rice, causing injury to an employee of the prison. This decision was made despite the absence of an employment relationship between the Mistry of Justice and the prisoner.

The Court once again used the two-stage test to determine whether the employer would be liable for wrongdoings committed by another under the doctrine of vicarious liability. The test is:

- Is there a relationship between the wrongdoer and the defendant which is capable of giving rise to vicarious liability?

-Is the employment sufficiently connected with the wrongful act or omission?

This case differed from the heavily publicised Mahmoud case (see below) in that an employee, rather than a customer, was injured by wrongdoing and was still able to bring a claim against the employer and afforded protection under the vicarious liability doctrine. Lord Reed also referred to that case when delivering judgment and said that the law of vicarious liability is still "on the move", and has "not yet come to a stop."


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