A dentist successfully challenged a vicarious liability claim at the Court of Appeal, in a case that had ‘serious repercussions’ within the profession.
The claim was brought against dentist Raj Rattan last year by a client of the Dental Law Partnership (DLP) over treatment carried out by associate dentists at Mr Rattan’s former practice.
Mr Rattan, a member of Dental Protection, did not carry out any of the procedures himself.
However the client, Mrs Hughes, pursued a claim against Mr Rattan under vicarious liability and non-delegable duty of care. This is despite the identification of the treating dentists and them willing to respond.
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‘Mostly unnecessary claims’
In July 2021, the judge at the preliminary hearing made it clear that Mr Rattan’s conduct as a practice owner was not brought into question.
Instead it ruled that he was vicariously liable for the self-employed dentists at his practice. Consequently he owed Mrs Hughes a non-delegable duty of care.
Geoff Jones is executive director and member protection and support at Dental Protection.
‘We have supported Raj Rattan as a Dental Protection member in fighting this case. It has significant repercussions for the dental profession,’ he said.
‘We are extremely pleased the judgment on vicarious liability has not been upheld. We will now explore whether we can take the fight on non-delegable duty of care to the Supreme Court.
‘These mostly unnecessary claims cause real distress for practice owners, some of whom have long since retired, and pose a risk to the long-established arrangements that exist between practice owners and their associates.’
He added: ‘DLP has been pursuing a number of claims like this against the practice owner rather than the self-employed dentists who provided the treatment.
‘In the majority of those cases, where a liability was established, the treating dentists are also willing to settle. The claimant could have received compensation much sooner.
‘Now, due to the Court of Appeal decision in this case, many of these vicarious liability claims brought by DLP on behalf of their clients, may fail. Unless it can be shown that the practice owed them a non-delegable duty of care in relation to the treatment carried out by the treating dentists.’
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