Employer’s liability for sexual assault by employee

When is an employer vicariously liable for sexual assault by its staff? In A, DC v Prince Alfred College Inc (2015) SASC 12 delivered on 4 February 2015 a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia has tried an action by a former boarder of the prestigious school who failed in an action against the school for sexual assaults perpetrated upon him by a boarding house teacher decades ago on the basis of an argument that “ there was a close connection between the teacher’s abuse and what he was employed to do in the boarding house, involving a relationship of “trust, dependence and vulnerability”.
But drawing on principles from the High Court’s in New South Wales v Lepore (2003) 212 CLR 511 Justice Vanstone said the school had not created or enhanced the risk of the teacher assaulting the student.
“I find that notwithstanding that the relationship between boarding house master and boarding student would likely be a closer one than that of a day student and teacher of like age, the ordinary relationship was not one of intimacy and the sexual abuse was so far from being connected to the teacher’s proper role that it could neither be seen as being an unauthorised mode of performing an authorised act, nor in pursuit of the employer’s business, nor in any sense within the course of the teacher’s employment,” she said.