Campbell v Peter Gordon Joiners – Case Summary

Campbell v Peter Gordon Joiners Ltd

Supreme Court

Citations: [2016] UKSC 38; [2016] AC 1513; [2016] 3 WLR 294; [2017] 2 All ER 161; [2016] 2 BCLC 287; [2016] ICR 862; [2016] Lloyd’s Rep IR 591.


The defendant was the sole director of a joining company. He was responsible for managing the business and its day-to-day operation. The claimant was an apprentice joiner employed by the company. He suffered serious injuries while using an electric saw. This type of injury was not covered by the company’s insurance. The company subsequently went into liquidation.

The claimant sued the defendant personally, alleging that he was in breach of statutory duty. It was not disputed that the company was in breach of its obligations under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 to have proper insurance. This kind of breach attracted criminal penalties for both a corporate employer and its directors. The claimant argued that the defendant was responsible for the company’s failure and should be liable.

  1. Does the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 impose duties directly on directors to obtain proper insurance?
  2. Can a breach of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 lead to a claim for civil damages?

The Supreme Court held in favour of the defendant. The Act did not impose direct duties on directors: the duty was solely on the employer, which was the company. In any event, the Court held that the Act did not give rise to a claim for damages if breached.

This Case is Authority For…

Normally, if a statute imposes a criminal penalty for breach, it will not be possible to bring a claim for damages.

It is not possible for a person to be indirectly liable for the breach of a duty imposed on another person or entity.