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Bank not liable for doctor’s sexual assaults when carrying out pre-employment medical examinations

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Barclays Bank plc v Various Claimants Dr Bates was a self-employed medical practitioner. His work included conducting medical examinations of prospective Barclays employees. Barclays arranged the appointments and paid a fee for each medical. Dr Bates conducted the medical examinations in a consulting room at his home and it is alleged that he sexually assaulted the 126 claimants in this group action during their medical examinations and the claimants sought damages from Barclays. The High Court and the Court of Appeal held that Barclays is vicariously liable for any assaults that Dr Bates is proved to have perpetrated. The Supreme Court disagreed. There must be a relationship between the two persons which makes it proper for the law to make one pay for the fault of the other. But in this case, Dr Bates was in business on his own account, he was not paid a retainer, he was paid a fee for each report, he was free to refuse to conduct an offered examination and no doubt carried his own medical liability insurance. Barclays is therefore not vicariously liable for any assaults that Dr Bates is proved to have committed during medical examinations he carried out for the bank.

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