Hollis v Vabu Pty Ltd

A Summary.

Citation: (2001) 207 CLR 21


The respondent conducted a business of delivering parcels and documents. The appellant was struck by a courier on a bicycle who worked for the respondent. The bicycle courier did not identify himself at the time of the accident and remained unidentified up until the trial. The appellant sued the respondent for damages for personal injuries suffered in the accident. The trial judge held that the accident was caused by the bicycle courier's negligent riding but that the respondent was not vicariously liable because the bicycle courier was not an employee but an independent contractor. An appeal by the appellant to the New South Wales Court of Appeal was dismissed. The appellant was granted special leave to appeal to the High Court. The High Court considered whether the respondent was liable for the bicycle courier's negligence, either by way of vicarious liability or agency.

Held, per Gleeson CJ, Gaudron, McHugh, Gummow, Kirby and Hayne JJ (Callinan J dissenting), allowing the appeal:

(i) Per Gleeson CJ, Gaudron, Gummow, Kirby and Hayne JJ (McHugh J dissenting): The relationship between the respondent and the bicycle courier who struck down the appellant was that of employer and employee. The respondent thus was vicariously liable for the consequences of the courier's negligent performance of his work: at [61], [73].

(ii) Per McHugh J: The courier was an agent of the respondent for whose negligence the respondent was responsible: at [74].