The Court of Appeal has delivered a ruling on whether a local authority can be held legally liable for acts of abuse carried out by foster parents (known by lawyers as 'vicarious liability') and whether authorities have a non-delegable duty to ensure that children are protected from harm.

In NA v Nottinghamshire County Council a victim of abuse by her foster parents brought a compensation claim against the local authority who placed her with them.

Unfortunately for the victim the Court of Appeal did not agree that the local authority was liable.

It dismissed the vicarious liability allegation, saying that the provision of family life wasn't part of the activity of a local authority. Local authorities have no day-to-day control over routines within a family and cannot be held vicariously responsible for what occurs. One appeal judge commented that the relationship between a local authority and foster parents was not sufficiently akin to that of an employer/employee, which is where the principle of vicarious liability is found.

As regards a non-delegable duty the court took the view that the local authority had discharged rather than "delegated" its duty. It was said that a non-delegable duty would be unreasonably burdensome and actually contrary to the interests of many of the children in the care of local authorities.

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