How far does local authority duty reach?

London Borough of Islington v University College London Hospital NHS Trust (Court of Appeal - 16 June 2005)

Why should a local authority have to pay the cost of care when the need for that care was as a result of the negligence of a third party, in this case an NHS Trust?

The Court of Appeal heard that a woman had been injured as a result of the hospital's negligence. Substantial damages were agreed. Not included in those damages was the £80,000 cost of care provided by the local authority to that claimant.

The local authority has a duty to provide care. It could not recover the cost from the injured person because the claimant did not have enough money to pay. As the injured person did not need to pay, she had not needed to pass on any costs to the trust as part of the claim.

The implications of the decision for local authorities everywhere had to be considered. The Court of Appeal addressed the issue of obtaining compensation from the NHS Trust.

The local authority needed to establish a duty of care on the part of the NHS Trust, and show it was foreseeable that they would have to incur the cost of care. It needed to show there was a sufficient degree of proximity between them and it would be otherwise 'fair, just and reasonable' to create such a duty. Were it just for this duty, the authority would have been likely to succeed.

Comment: The Court of Appeal held that an additional issue of 'policy' needed to be considered. Extensions to duties under the law should be left to parliament. Until local authorities acquire a statutory right of recovery, there would be no recovery. - Tony Walton, BLM Stockton-on-Tees.

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