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NEGLIGENCE: VL (by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Oxford County Council [2010] EWHC 2091 (QB)

Date:22 SEP 2010

(Queen's Bench Division; Mackay J; 5 August 2010)

The child suffered permanent brain damage injuries at the hands of the father. A care order was made and the local authority first placed the child with her maternal grandparents, then permitted the child to return to her mother's care and finally carefully reintroduced the father to the family.  

When the child became an adult, she sought compensation for criminal injuries from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) and received the maximum possible compensation under the current scheme (£500,000). Subsequently she claimed that the local authority were negligent in that they failed to make an application on her behalf before the scheme changed and payouts were reduced. There was no precedent for such a claim.  

Although the authority had the power to make a CICB claim even if mother objected, having such power did not mean it had a duty in tort to maximise the economic position of a child in care by allocating time and resources to a pursuit of all available financial claims in a situation where a parent retained a share of parental rights. The primary focus of the authority had been on the physical welfare and safety of the child and rebuilding the family unit. In particular, the authority had prioritised reintegrating the father into the family over making the claim. It was not fair, just or reasonable to impose a duty of care of this type and scope.


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