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BA child abuse claims shines spotlight on vicarious liability

31 July 2014

British Airways (BA) is being sued over allegations that a pilot abused children on stopovers in Africa. He allegedly used his involvement in BA’s community relations work to visit schools and orphanages which received donations from the airline.

Recent sexual abuse cases have chipped away at the test for vicarious liability. We now look for (i) an employment relationship or relationship “akin to employment”; and (ii) a sufficiently close connection between the employment and the wrongful act to make it fair, just and reasonable to hold an employer liable.

Whether BA will be liable will turn on the ‘close connection’ stage of the new test. It will be interesting to see what approach the court takes. However, the seemingly constant re-examination of vicarious liability in abuse cases, a readiness to sue corporate bodies, and the courts willingness to extend the principles appears to be driven by a desire to find any way to effectively compensate a victim of another’s wrongful act.

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