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Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

15. Liability of Public Authorities  

Mark Elliott and Jason Varuhas

This chapter examines the nature and operation of the liability of public authorities, with particular emphasis on the tensions between the equality principle, a concern that authorities ought to be specially protected, and a concern that authorities ought to be subject to wider and more onerous obligations. The chapter first considers the relationship of public authority liability with judicial review and goes on to discuss the law of torts, especially the tort of negligence and what circumstances courts ought to impose negligence liability on public authorities for harm caused through exercises of statutory discretion. It then explores negligence liability in relation to omissions, human rights, and misfeasance in public office. It also reviews damages under the Human Rights Act 1998, contracts, restitution, and state liability in European Union law.

Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

14. Torts  

A claim for damages for loss caused by a public authority gives a court the opportunity to do justice for the claimant and also to impose the rule of law on the administration. The challenge is to do both without interfering inappropriately in the administrative pursuit of public goods, and without creating public compensation funds that only a legislature can legitimately create. It is an important constitutional principle that liabilities in the law of tort apply to public authorities, just as to private parties. But there is no general liability to compensate for public action that was unlawful; the impugned conduct must meet the standard requirements of the tort liability of private parties, with the exception of the one public tort: misfeasance in a public office. This chapter discusses trespass to property, statutory liabilities, negligence, misfeasance in public office, and damages under the Human Rights Act 1998.