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UK Charity Not Liable for Seaborne Protest

The liability of subsidiaries for wrongs committed by their parent organisations came under analysis as the Supreme Court ruled that a UK-based charity could not be held responsible for a seaborne protest which caused damage to a fish farm and its stock of Bluefin tuna.

The charity was one of several offshoots of a US organisation which was dedicated to the preservation of marine ecosystems. The latter had organised a protest against the alleged over-fishing of tuna in the Mediterranean in which a fish cage was rammed off Malta and the tuna within it released.

The operators of the fish farm sued the charity in England, seeking to recover its losses. The claim was dismissed by a judge on the basis that the charity could not be held directly or vicariously liable for the damage caused. However, that ruling was subsequently reversed by the Court of Appeal.

In allowing the charity’s appeal against the latter decision by a majority, the Supreme Court noted that its contribution to the protest had only extended to a small amount of fund raising and the recruitment of two volunteers whose role in the relevant events had been trivial. The charity had not acted in a way which furthered the commission of the wrong; nor had it participated in a common design with its parent organisation.