Case Study: Hollis V Vabu

1919 Words8 Pages
Case Study: Hollis V Vabu

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Case Summary 3

Facts 3

Issues 3

Ratio 3

Decision 4

Critical Analysis 4

Commercial Implications 5

Legal Implications 6

Conclusion 6

Bibliography 7

Appendix † Research Plan 8


The case Hollis v Vabu Pty Ltd[1] confirms the long held doctrine that employers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees during the course of their employment. In comparison to cases such as Humberstone v Northern Timber Mills[2] and Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Co Pty Ltd[3], which appear to contribute to the development of the application of common law to evolving social conditions, the Hollis v Vabu Pty Ltd case may be considered as taking a step back in affirming the traditional notion of ‘control’ when determining the nature of employment relationships. The following will critically analyse the ratio and the legal and commercial implications prevalent in this case.

Case Summary


Vabu Pty Ltd trading as “Crisis Couriers” conducted a business of delivering parcels and documents using bicycle, motorcycle and motor vehicle couriers. On 22nd December 1994, Mr. Hollis was struck on the footpath by a cyclist as he was leaving a building in Ultimo. The unidentified cyclist was wearing a green jacket on which was printed “Crisis Couriers”. The accident resulted in a 25% permanent deficit in Mr. Hollis’s knee, which required surgery and rendered him to be unfit for work for a period of time. Mr. Hollis sued Vabu Pty Ltd claiming that the company was vicariously liable for its employee’s negligence.


The High Court focused primarily on the nature of the employment relationship between Vabu Pty Ltd and its cour...

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...eddes, R & Hammer, D (2005) Laying Down the Law. 6th ed. Sydney: LexisNexis

[5] CATANZARITI, Joe, ‘What’s in a name? The independent contractor v employee distinction revisited’, Law Society Journal 39(9) October 2001: 46-47

[6] Australian Air Express Pty Ltd v Langford 41183/03, 2006 NSWCA 96

[7] US v Silk (1946) 3331 U.S

[8] Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd v Producers and Citizens Co-operative Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd (1919) 26 CLR 110

[9] Quarman v Burnett (1840) 6 M & W 499

[10] Vabu Pty Ltd v Federal Commission of Taxation (1996) 33 ART 537

[11] CHIN, David, ‘Employees or Independent Contractors?’, Law Society Journal 39(11) December 2001: 68-71

[12] CURRAN, Simon, ‘When is a duck not a duck? The employee/independent contractor dichotomy’, Bulletin (Law Society of S.A) 26 (9) October 200etin (Law Society of S.A) 26 (9) October 2004: 23-26
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