It has been reported that the BBC and other institutions face 18 compensation claims as claims are launched following the alleged abuse by Jimmy Savile.
Lis Dux, a lawyer specialising in child abuse cases, advised that the number of cases had mounted in the last week as women became more confident about suing in light of the Scotland Yard revelation that Savile may have been one of the worst-ever UK sex offenders.
She is preparing cases against the BBC, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Duncroft Approved School on the grounds that they have ‘vicarious liability; for the activities of their staff or their agents.
‘Vicarious liability’ is an important legal principle. It is the liability you may have for the acts and omissions of an employee or some other individual for whose conduct you are legally responsible. Although Savile was clearly an employee of the BBC it is debatable whether he was an employee of the hospital and the school.
In the recently decided case of JGE v Trustees of the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust, JGE alleged that she was sexually abused and raped by a priest while staying at a children’s home in Hampshire managed by an order of nuns. It was decided at a preliminary hearing that in this instance the diocese did have vicarious liability for the priest even though he wasn’t technically an employee. The Judge acknowledged that vicarious liability involved the combination of two elements. First being the relationship between the employer and the employees and second being whether the act was within the scope of the employment.
The decision was appealed as the diocese denied the priest was in their service. They contended that he was at all times following his vocation and calling as a priest. The Court of Appeal held that the law of vicarious liability had moved beyond the confines of a contract of service. Although this priest was not an employee in every sense the Court of Appeal held that he was more like an employee than an independent contractor and the appeal was dismissed.
Who knows if the Savile cases will succeed but more than likely they will settle before they get anywhere near a Judge.