This case involves over 100 former employees of Barclays Bank who say that they were sexually abused by Dr Bates. In brief, the facts of the case are that, mainly young women were obliged to undergo a medical after job interview but before a formal offer of employment was made. In the North East, the Bank organised these medicals with Dr Bates. He had a pro forma to complete with the Barclays logo on it and the Bank told Dr Bates what tests to carry out. The medical was an integral part of the Bank’s operation and the the women were told they would be seeing the ‘Bank’s doctor’. The examinations took place at Dr Bates’ house where he sexually assaulted them. The women sued the Bank on the basis that it was vicariously liable for Dr Bates’ actions.
I remember reading this case when it came before the High Court. I was surprised to see that this point had been litigated at all. Certainly, as the facts were found by the judge (mainly being agreed between the parties) this did not seem a marginal case. The Judge clearly thought the same and found the Bank were liable. Despite this the Bank and their legal team appealed to the Court of Appeal, who again looked at the case and said they were vicariously liable.
It is not so much the law that causes me to write this piece, more the tactics employed by the Defendant and their legal team. The agreed facts in this case are clearly well within the current law that has been developed over the last 10 years or so, much of it with significant involvement from the legal teams in this case. If that is the correct analysis, then I do wonder why the Defendant sought to even have the issue of vicarious liability dealt with as a preliminary point, let alone appealed it to the Court of Appeal. They could happily have conceded vicarious liability but fought the cases on liability and limitation.
Instead they have pursued a weak legal argument at great cost and wasted time. This is a group litigation and I imagine that as time goes on, some claimants will lose interest or sadly die while the Bank and their legal team argue hopeless legal principles. I can hear the calls now to the effect that these are important principles of law that need to be clarified. This was not such a case; it was not marginal and can only be seen as an attempt by the Defendant community to drastically reduce the scope of vicarious liability since that would have been the outcome of a finding in their favour.
I do not know if they intend to appeal to the Supreme Court, I imagine they will. It is a shame that nobody at the Bank will intervene and wonder why they are obstructing claims from former employees and I would imagine some of them have put in many years of service for the Bank. I may be proved wrong, I hope that I am.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.