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Biffa Waste Services -v- Outokumpu Wenmac AB

12th Nov 2008

[2009] BLR 1; [2009] 3 WLR 324; [2009] QB 725; [2008] BLR 155; The Times, November 21, 2008

David Allen Q.C. successfully overturned a decision by Ramsey J. holding his clients vicariously liable in tort for burning a waste plant down. The judgment deals with two of the most important aspects of tort law for commercial lawyers namely: (a) the doctrine of vicarious liability; and (b) the doctrine of non-delegable or strict liability for so called ‘extra hazardous’ acts.

Negligence – Extra-hazardous acts – Delegation to independent contractor – Fire caused by negligence of independent contractor’s employees during welding operation – Whether operation to be carried out by independent contractor exceptionally dangerous whatever precautions taken – Whether employer liable
Vicarious liability – Employment – Negligence – Defendant contracting with claimant to design and build mill at waste recycling plant – Defendant hiring independent contractor to carry out site work – Fire caused on site by negligence of independent contractor’s employees – Whether independent contractor’s employees to be treated as having temporarily become employees of defendant – Whether defendant liable for negligent acts

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