As the decision of Various v Barclays Bank  EWCA Civ 1670 heads to the Supreme Court in November an interesting case which addressed the principle of vicarious liability in another medical context took an unexpected turn in the case of Brayshaw v Partners of Apsley Surgery  EWHC 3286 (QB).
The claimant contacted the Apsley Surgery (“the practice”) on 17 August 2012, with low mood and feeling desperate. The locum GP, Dr Thomas O’Brien, spoke with her, raised with her issues of faith and later that day attended the claimant’s home, with his wife, to discuss religion as a “faith healer”. The claimant thereafter accompanied them to church, restaurants and their log cabin whilst also continuing to attend the practice in respect of her mental health issues. In January 2013, the claimant attended church as usual to experience something similar to an exorcism. Subsequent to this the claimant felt suicidal and developed a phobia of owls. The claimant alleged the O’Brien’s had indoctrinated her into their faith and encouraged her to stop her medication and attending psychiatric appointments. She said that that she suffered psychiatric harm as a result of the religious indoctrination. She made a complaint to the GMC as a result of which Dr O’Brien was struck off for having abused his position of trust. She then pursued a claim alleging that the treatment amounted to an intentional infliction of harm/harassment and that the practice was vicariously liable for Dr O’Brien’s behaviour.