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Local Authority Liability

FROM £85.50

Provides a comprehensive survey of the legal liability of local authorities

This well-established and popular work provides a comprehensive survey of the legal liabilities of local authorities, written by a team of specialists in local authority liability claims.

 It comprises an invaluable overview of the nature and extent of the liability of local authorities, together with specialist chapters on the core areas of activity including education, social services, occupier’s liability, employer’s liability, highways, environmental damage and trees.

This new edition has been extensively revised and updated to take account of the latest developments, including:

  • The extent of the common law duty of care owed by police to victims of crime and duties under the Human Rights Act 1998 (Michael v Chief Constable of South WalesPolice), and the duty of care owed by local authorities where performing statutory powers (Furnell v Flaherty)
  • Vicarious liability in abuse cases (JGE v Trustees of Portsmouth RC Diocesan Trust) and whether local authorities owe a non-delegable duty of care to children in foster care (NA v Nottinghamshire County Council)
  • The development of the non-delegable duty owed by schools (Woodland v Essex County Council) and the duty of schools for activities away from school (Wilkins-Shaw v Fuller)
  • The requirement of notice of disrepair in cases of statutory covenants (Edwards v Kumarasamy) and various cases on the duty owed by occupiers and those running activities
  • Coverage of various cases on the Workplace Regulations and the implication of section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act2013
  • The latest case-law dealing with the duty to maintain and statutory defence under sections 41 and 58 of the Highways Act 1980 (TR v Devon County Council and various cases)
  • The measured duty of care in cases of natural nuisance (Vernon Knight Associates v Cornwall CCand various cases)
  • Foreseeability in cases of tree root subsidence (Berent v Family Mosaic Housing, Robbins v LB Bexley, Khan v Harrow Council)

Local Authority Liability is essential reading for all lawyers dealing with general common law and public sector claims, local authority risk managers and insurance industry professionals dealing with the public sector.
  • Introduction to Duties Owed by Local Authorities
  • The Human Rights Act 1998
  • Social Services
  • Education -The Liability of Teachers and Local Education Authorities
  • Housing and Occupier's Liability
  • Employer's Liability
  • Highways
  • Environmental Liabilities
  • Advice and Information
  • Emergency Services
  • Trees
"an essential purchase ... a reliable reference"

Read the full review here ¦ Watch the full review on YouTube or Flickr
Phillip Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

Reviews of the previous editions

"accessible and well organised ... practical and relevant ... a useful addition to any law library"
New Law Journal - review of second edition

"an indispensable component of every local authority law library"
New Law Journal - review of third edition

"Each chapter gives practical insight and a wealth of first instance authority"

"If you're a lawyer dealing with general common law and public sector claims, or a local authority or insurance industry professional, you need this book... if you're involved professionally with any of the issues pertaining to local authority liability, this book should be regarded as an essential purchase for its comprehensive survey of local authority liability.."
Read the full review here
Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
In previous editions of our book we have dealt with cases in which the appellate courts have considered the circumstances in which local authorities owe a duty of care, particularly when they are performing a statutory function. When the first edition of this book was published, the high watermark represented by Anns v Merton had been lowered by Caparo. Since then the courts have grappled with the concept of the assumption of responsibility, and also attempts have been made to develop the common law duty of care in harmony with Convention claims brought under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Supreme Court has rejected the latter approach in Michael v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police. In his analysis of the law in Furnell v Flaherty and Others, Turner J pointed out that the starting point for analysis of when a duty of care arises out of the exercise of a statutory function was the House of Lords decision in East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v Kent and Another, decided as long ago as 1941.

A decision which may give rise to attempts to extend the occasions when a duty of care is owed is Woodland v Essex County Council in which the Supreme Court held that a school can owe a non-delegable duty of care to its pupils. An attempt was made to apply this decision to foster parents in NA v Nottinghamshire County Council. The attempt failed, but an appeal has recently been heard by the Court of Appeal and it is possible that the case may not rest there.

Although slightly peripheral to local authorities, we note the extension of vicarious liability reflected in the decisions in abuse cases involving the Roman Catholic Church. We also note the Court of Appeal’s approach to Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 in TR v Devon County Council.

We also refer to the significant change in cases of employers’ liability where Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has removed civil liability for breach of regulations. As this change applies only to breaches of duty from 1 October 2013, it is too early for the courts to have had the opportunity of dealing with such claims. In chapter 6, therefore, we have dealt with the existing law under the various workplace regulations, because this remains relevant, but we have also speculated on the way in which the change may affect cases in the future. We will no doubt deal with claims following the coming into force of Section 69 in the next edition of our book.

As before, we present this book as an attempt to give guidance to those dealing with claims against local authorities, bringing together the various liability claims that they face.

We would like to thank those who have contributed to this book, namely Andrew Warnock QC, Angus Piper and Mark Whittaker. We must also thank all of those who have given assistance with research and typing, particularly Lynne Mockett. Finally, our families who, as always, have had to allow us time to review the developing case-law to include in this sixth edition.

A line has to be drawn and accordingly this book reflects cases decided before 30 September 2015.

John Morrell
Richard Foster
September 2015

This book is now well established as one which all practitioners dealing with issues of local authority liability would be well advised to have on their bookshelf. Local authorities occupy ground where public law and private law principles frequently meet and analysis is not always easy. The area is also heavily affected by ever-increasing legislation and regulations.

It is therefore no surprise that there continues to be a large output of fresh decisions, which are not always easy to reconcile. The great value of this book is its comprehensiveness. It provides an up to date and masterly guide through the labyrinth.

The aim of the authors is to state the law rather than to criticise it. This is understandable, but, for courts (especially appellate courts) faced with complex questions, constructive criticism in textbooks is to be welcomed, and I would encourage the authors to feel free to travel in that direction. The extent to which authors of textbooks can have an important role not only in mapping the law but in its development is sometimes under-appreciated. Meanwhile the authors have performed a valuable service in helping practitioners and courts to keep abreast of the present law.

The Rt Hon Lord Toulson
October 2015
Angus Piper, Barrister, 1 Chancery Lane

Andrew Warnock, Barrister, 1 Chancery Lane

Mark Whittaker, Partner, DWF LLP
Extract from the 5th Edition


4.1 In Van Oppen v Clerk to the Bedford Charity Trustees, a case involving a serious injury sustained by the plaintiff when playing a rugby match at school, it was accepted by both parties that the school, being in loco parentis, owed a general duty to the plaintiff and to all pupils to exercise all reasonable care for his and their safety both in the classroom and on the games field. The nature of the duty has been established for more than 100 years and is well understood in actions involving personal injury. Recent years have, however, seen cases establishing that the duty of care can extend to the quality of education received by certain pupils, for example those suffering from dyslexia, and possibly to cases of bullying, where the injury has been psychiatric or there has been a failure to ameliorate a congenital condition. This chapter will consider the traditional claims against schools and will then go on to deal with the newer areas of liability.

4.2 The duty owed by schoolteachers in supervising their pupils was expressed by Lord Esher MR in the case of Williams v Eady:
‘The school master is bound to take such care of his boys as a careful father would take of his boys.’
In Eady the plaintiff was injured when a fellow pupil was playing with a bottle containing phosphorus which exploded. The Court of Appeal did not interfere with the decision of the jury in favour of the plaintiff at the original trial because the bottle had been left in a conservatory. Had it been locked away, as a careful father would have ensured at home, it was unlikely that the boys would have found the bottle and there would have been no finding of negligence.

4.3 Although in Ricketts v Erith Borough Council and Another Tucker J followed the principle set out in Eady, he added a further consideration to the test:
 1 [1989] 1 All ER 273.
 2 (1893) 10 TLR 41.
 3 [1943] 2 All ER 629.
‘The duty of the Defendants is that of a reasonably careful parent … incidentally, in considering the facts of a case like this, one has to visualise a parent with a very large family, because 50 children playing about in a yard is, of course, a different thing from 4 or 5 children playing about together in a garden.’
In Nicholson v Westmoreland County Council, Lord Denning MR agreed that the test was the position of a reasonably careful parent, but that it must be a reasonably careful parent looking after a family as large as 20.

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