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Injured prison worker wins Supreme Court appeal

A caterer at Swansea Prison has won her right to compensation after being injured by an inmate who dropped a bag of rice on her. 
Susan Cox suffered spinal injuries after the incident in 2007, when the inmate dropped the heavy bag on her as she was cleaning up a spillage. “I was in agony after the injury and it forced me to medically retire from a job I loved,” she said. Initially, however, she was refused compensation after the Ministry of Justice appealed a previous ruling.
The point of contention was that prisoners were not viewed as employees in the prison, and therefore she was not covered by the existing laws around workplace injuries and compensation. However, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that the Ministry of Defence had fought, that inmates are effectively akin to employees.
Vicarious liability applies to situations where someone is held responsible for the actions, or lack of action, of someone else. In a workplace setting, it means that an employer can be held liable for the actions of its employees, if they took place while they were working.
This is a landmark case in that it extends the principle of vicarious liability to the prison system, and therefore potentially to the public sector as a whole.
The Prison Officers’ Association commented, “This is a significant day for prison workers across the UK. They are now legally protected when working alongside prisoners.”

Diane Parker, head of personal injury at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “It is important for employers to bear in mind that action could still be taken against them after an employee has left their business. It is also possible for employers to land in hot water for the action of their clients or customers if their behaviour can be proved to have been within the employers’ control.”

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