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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

11 DEC 2008

LOCAL AUTHORITY: L and Another v Reading Borough Council and Another (No 2) [2007] EWCA Civ 1313, [2007] The Times December 27

(Court of Appeal; Sir Anthony Clarke MR, May and Hallett LJJ; 11 December 2007)

The local authority social worker and a police officer formed the view, on the basis of interviews with the child, that the father had abused the child. Subsequently, in contact proceedings, the judge found there had been no abuse. The father claimed for damages on the basis that the local authority had owed him a vicarious duty of care. His claim was struck out. The father's claim was amended to assert that the local authority owed a direct duty of care to both the child and the father to have appropriate systems and policies in place. The judge did not strike out the amended claim, and the authority appealed.

Although the House of Lords decision in D v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust [2005] 2 AC 373 was not binding authority for the proposition that the principles that applied to vicarious liability for breach of duty by a social worker also applied to cases of direct liability, on the alleged facts there was no distinction between the two types of alleged breach of duty, and the principles in D defeated the father's claim under direct duty as they had done his claim under vicarious liability.

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