Lister v Romford Ice & Cold Storage Co Ltd [1957] AC 555

Tort law – Contract of service – Vicarious liability


The defendant was a lorry driver who was employed by the plaintiffs to drive their lorry to a slaughterhouse in order to collect waste. The driver took his father with him for the journey and during the course of which, the son reversed the lorry into the father, causing injury. The father sued the plaintiffs for damages for personal injury and recovered damages following his son’s driving. The company also bought an action against the driver claiming damages for breaching an implied term in his service contract that he would use reasonable skill and care during the course of driving.


It was important for the court, in this case, to establish whether the driver owed his employer a duty to use reasonable skill and care in the course of his employment. The court was also required to establish the quantum of damage in its judgment.


The court held that the driver was required by a contractual obligation to perform the driving with reasonable skill and care. On this basis, the company was entitled to recover damages for the breach of contract and the driver could not rely on any implied term in the contract that might have indemnified him from such action as this would have been all-embracing in scope and therefore the employer would bear the burden under any action.  The quantum of damage was proven by the fact that the company was liable to pay the amount of the judgment and cost in the first instance.