Breakinbury v Croad (unreported) 2021

Dental practice owner held vicariously liable for the negligent treatment of a claimant by an associate dentist who worked within his practice.

In a case described as “not binding but persuasive”, a County Court judge ruled in a preliminary hearing, that the dental practice owner could be held vicariously liable for the negligent treatment of a claimant by an associate dentist who worked within his practice.

No 5 Barristers reported that, in the claim, the Claimant sought damages from the Defendant, a dentist who retired in about 2000, but who owned Fountain Dental Care Practice (“the practice”) until he sold it in 2012. The Claimant had been a patient of the practice since 2007. Allegations of negligence spanned the period 2008 – 2012 and related to work carried out at the practice rather than work carried out by the Defendant personally.

The Claimant argued that the Defendant, a dental practice owner, owed a non-delegable duty of care to her as a patient of the practice (regardless of whether he personally treated her), and also that the Defendant could be held vicariously liable for the negligent treatment of her by an associate dentist who worked within his practice.

The Judge found that a practice must owe a duty of care to a patient for whose care they are paid by the Local Health Board.

No 5 Barristers reporting on the case commented that, bearing in mind this case is persuasive not binding:

“If an associate is uninsured, or unable to be located, then a Claimant could seek to bring a claim against a principal dentist. Principals, or “Providers”, should therefore ensure that they are covered by their indemnifiers for any potential vicarious liability claim, even after their retirement if they still own a dental practice, and also check that all associates are properly indemnified.

“The judge in Breakingbury also made the point that the practice had an overarching obligation to ensure that the dental services provided by it were safe and met the expected standard set by the Local Health Board, and that associates made clinical decisions on behalf of the practice. This places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the principal as practice owner, and principals may therefore need to consider how they ensure that such standards are met by their associates and other clinical staff.”

Follow Us