Jones v Manchester Corporation [1952] 2 QB 852

Tort law – Negligence – Medical practitioner


During the course of operating on a patient with facial burns, a newly qualified doctor administered a drug which she had no thorough knowledge of, without supervision, and as a result of this the patient died. The hospital board employed the doctor in a master and servant relationship. The trial judge found that both the medical board and the doctor had been negligent and ordered the board to effectively provide the doctor with a full indemnity.


The issue in the case was to understand if, and to what extent the doctor and medical board were liable for the death of the patient. If they were liable, it was important to assess whether the doctor was required by an express or implied term in the employment contract to indemnify the medical board from liability from a third-party. The Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act 1935 provides the court with discretion to order any indemnity between master and servant in such circumstances.


The court held that a servant has a duty to serve his master to the best of his ability but this is not a promise to provide an indemnity against third-party claims for which he may be liable as a result of his actions. The court held that the hospital board had contributed to the negligence and that there was no implied or express term in a contract that required the doctor to indemnify the medical board. The court did however, state that the mistake was inexcusable even for an inexperienced and therefore allotted her twenty percent of the total responsibility.