Supreme Court decision allows children abused by foster carers the right to claim damages from the Local Authority

We have today learned the long awaited outcome of the case of Armes (Appellant) v Nottinghamshire County Council (Respondent).

This case was heard by the Supreme Court many months ago and Claimant and Defendant specialists in this area alike have been awaiting with interest the Courts views.

The Appellant in this case was in the care of Nottinghamshire County Council from the age of 7 to 18.   She suffered physical abuse in one foster placement and sexual abuse in another. The Local Authority argued that they were not responsible for the actions of the foster carers.

There has been debate for many years amongst lawyers working in this area as to whether Local Authorities should be held vicariously liable for the actions of foster carers.

It seems manifestly unjust that if a child is abused in a Children’s Home by a member of staff, that child will have a good claim for damages against the Local Authority whereas if that child is abused in a foster placement by a foster carer receiving payments from the Local Authority, that child has no redress.

The earlier case of Woodland appeared to open the door to Claimants who had suffered abuse whilst in foster care. This created a “non delegable duty” on the Local Authority in certain situations. It was initially held that that non delegable duty did not apply to the Local Authority when placing a child in foster care.

The importance of the Armes decision is that the Supreme Court has now allowed by a majority of four to one a finding that the Local Authority can be vicariously liable for abuse committed by foster carers albeit that this was not on the basis of a non delegable duty.

The creation of vicarious liable for the actions of foster parents will have far reaching effects.

I presently act for many Claimants who have been awaiting this Judgment. They have been abused historically in a foster placement and up until now have been unable to pursue a claim against the Local Authority. This now changes.

Any Claimant who has been abused whilst in foster care will now have a potential action against the Local Authority on the basis that they are vicariously liable for the actions of the foster carers.

I anticipate that this will result in many victims now coming forward to pursue claims.

To speak to a member of Farleys abuse claims team, please call 0330 134 6430 or submit your enquiry through our online form.