Non-delegable duties of care: a recent case considered

elliot_kay_pi By Elliot Kay

GB v Home Office [2015] EWHC 819 (QB)

The Claimant, GB (who was also a protected party), brought a claim in negligence against the Home Office arising out of medical treatment which she received whilst detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre between 16 June and 27 July 2012.

GB, an illegal overstayer, was detained in an immigration removal centre run by an organisation on behalf of the Home Office. She was examined by a GP employed by a local surgery and he prescribed an anti-malarial drug on the basis that the Home Office was proposing to return GB to Nigeria.

A psychiatrist’s report inferred that GB had suffered from psychosis as a result of the anti-malarial drug which the GP had prescribed. GB was subsequently released from detention and granted refugee status. She has brought claims against the Home Office in negligence and for unlawful detention. It fell to be determined as a preliminary issue whether the Home Office owed a non-delegable duty of care to GB so as to leave it liable for any acts or omissions of the GP who prescribed the drug and/or the organisation which ran the detention centre on its behalf.

Mr Justice Coulson held that the Home Office did owe a non-delegable duty of care to GB.  He went on to clarify that a non-delegable duty only arises in circumstances whereby the Claimant is especially vulnerable or dependent on the protection of the Defendant against the risk of injury. In this case, not only was GB an especially vulnerable Claimant but she was being held against her will and subject to the control of the Home Office. GB was reliant on the protection and services of the Home Office whilst she was detained; she had no other option available to her. On that basis, the Home Office owed a positive and non-delegable duty to protect her from harm.

It was argued by the Home Office that the provision of medical care had not been an integral part of the positive duty owed to GB. Mr Justice Coulson did not agree. The prescription of anti-malarial drugs had been integral to that duty because the Home Office envisaged and hoped for GB’s return to Nigeria; the prescription of an anti-malarial drug was necessary for that proposed course to be viable.

A link to Mr Justice Coulson’s judgment can be found below.




  1. […] Elliot Kay considered the case of GB v Home Office [2015] EWHC 819 (QB) and Non-delegable Duties of Care  […]

  2. […] Kay considered the case of GB v Home Office [2015] EWHC 819 (QB) and Non-delegable Duties of Care  (April […]

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