Vicarious Liability - Scotland Moves In The Same Direction As England & Wales

In Grubb v Shannon, Sheriff Reid, sitting in Glasgow Sheriff Court, has issued a decision which follows recent Supreme Court authority extending the scope of vicarious liability in England & Wales. In Sheriff Reid's own words: "the facts are unremarkable, but the law that follows to be applied is relatively new". This is the first reported decision in Scotland where the extended scope of vicarious liability has been applied. Although the claim did, as Sheriff Reid pointed out, concern unremarkable circumstances, it is likely to have significant implications for those pursing and defending claims in Scotland.

What is vicarious liability?

Vicarious liability in its simplest form is the liability of a party for the actions or omissions of another party. In personal injury cases, it is most commonly seen in cases where an employer is held vicariously liable for an employee who has been negligent and, as a result of that negligence, someone has been injured.

Lauren Grubb attended Ms Shannon's beauty salon for a treatment which involved hot wax and a chemical tint to her eyebrows and skin. Ms Grubb suffered an allergic reaction which caused swelling, weeping of the skin and loss of her eyebrow hair.

The facts

Ms Grubb had been treated by Rosanne Higgins but sought to recover damages from Ms Shannon. Ms Grubb had been treated in premises which were leased by Ms Shannon and operated by her under the trading name "Blush Hair and Beauty". Ms Shannon had furnished and decorated the salon and had opened a business Facebook account under the name "Blush Hair and Beauty". At the time of Ms Grubb receiving her treatment, Ms Shannon was not working at the salon as she was on maternity leave. Ms Shannon had selected and permitted three other people to work in the salon.

Ms Higgins, was one of those three people but she was not employed by Ms Shannon. The defender permitted Ms Higgins to provide a wide range of beauty therapy treatments to customers. Ms Higgins kept all of the income from those treatments and paid Ms Shannon a flat £20 fee for each day that Ms Higgins worked in the salon.

However Ms Shannon and Ms Higgins had agreed a uniform pricelist for the treatment and Ms Higgins could not offer any special offers without Ms Shannon's permission.

It was not apparent to customers that Ms Higgins was self-employed or indeed that she was operating an independent business within Ms Shannon's premises.

Ms Shannon's evidence was that she did not control...

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