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Case details

YXA (a protected party by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) (Respondent) v Wolverhampton City Council (Appellant)

Case ID: 2022/0148

Case summary


The central issue in this case is whether the local authority had assumed responsibility to protect a child from harm through its conduct, and therefore owed them a duty of care at common-law?


A summary of the facts in YXA's case, as alleged by YXA, is set out at CA [13]-[16], Bundle p. 46-47). Not all of these facts are admitted by Wolverhampton City Council ("WCC"). As this concerns an application to strike out by WCC, the court is required to assume that the facts alleged by YXA are capable of proof (CA [4], Bundle p. 43).

YXA was born on 14 November 2001. From birth until August 2007, YXA lived in the London Borough of Southwark ("LBS") area. LBS was originally the first defendant to this claim, but the claim against it was discontinued. From August 2007 onwards, YXA lived in the WCC area. YXA suffers from epilepsy, learning disabilities and autism. LBS was extensively involved in YXA's family. Concerns were regularly expressed by professionals involved in his care (CA [13], Bundle p. 46).

When YXA's family moved to the WCC area, WCC's social services team got involved and completed an assessment in which they identified concerns about YXA's parents' ability to care for him. From March 2008, a paediatrician regularly expressed concern for YXA. The paediatrician advised WCC that YXA was being inappropriately medicated and recommended that he should be taken into care. In April 2008, an agreement was reached with YXA's parents and YXA was regularly accommodated by WCC under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 ("Children Act"). YXA then spent regular ‘respite periods' in foster care (CA [13], Bundle p. 46).

Over the following 18 months, there were further concerns about violence and aggression by YXA's parents towards YXA. There were allegations that YXA's parents drank and took cannabis to excess, that they physically assaulted YXA, and that they were continuing to administer medication excessively (CA [14], Bundle p. 46).

In December 2009, there were admissions by YXA's parents that they had medicated YXA excessively to keep him quiet and had smacked him. With YXA's parents' consent, under s.20 of the Children Act, YXA was then received into WCC's care full time. In 2010, care proceedings were commenced which resulted in the making of a care order in 2011. YXA then remained in long-term foster care (CA [14], Bundle p. 46).

YXA brought a claim against WCC. A letter of claim was sent in October 2012, but it was not until July 2018 that the claim form was issued and not until August 2019 that Particulars of Claim were served. YXA argued that WCC had assumed responsibility for his welfare by taking him into its care various times under s.20 of the Children Act. Accordingly, YXA argued that WCC owed him a common law duty of care. In July 2020, WCC applied to strike out the claim. In the High Court, both the Master (at first instance) and Stacey J (on appeal) decided that WCC did not assume responsibility and it was not arguable that WCC owed YXA a common law duty of care. Accordingly, the Master struck out YXA's claim, and Stacey J dismissed YXA's appeal (CA [15]-[16], Bundle p. 46-47). The CA disagreed (CA [107], Bundle p. 83). The CA held that it was arguable that a duty of care might arise in this situation and that the case should go to trial. WCC now seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Judgment appealed

[2022] EWCA Civ 1196



Wolverhampton City Council





Lord Reed, Lord Briggs, Lord Sales, Lord Burrows, Lord Stephens

Hearing start date

24 October 2023

Hearing finish date

25 October 2023