In Deep Water - The Pitfalls of Suing an Unincorporated Association

Claims against unincorporated member associations must be carefully considered as was illustrated by a recent success of Forbes Solicitors. It is settled law that members of an unincorporated association owe no duty of care (whether under statute or at common law) to each other by virtue of their membership save in circumstances where the constitution specifically makes provision for such a duty. This was summarised by LJ May in the case of Ridley v Robertson [1989] 1 WLR 872: "In so far as the judge held that in general there is no liability at common law on a club or its members on the one hand to individual members on the other hand, I respectfully agree."

Ridwaan Omar
Ridwaan Omar

Published: December 19th, 2019

3 mins read

The facts

The Claimant was a member of an Angling Society. In April 2015, he visited a fishery operated by the Angling Society and was hit on the head by, what he alleged was, a defective entry barrier sustaining injury. He brought a claim against the Angling Society.

The Angling Society was an unincorporated association. The Claimant alleged that he was injured by the dangerous state of the premises occupied by the Society and alleged a breach of the Occupiers Liability Act. The Defendant argued that members of the Society did not owe a duty of care to individual members beyond the constitution. An unincorporated association has no separate legal identity from that of its members, so technically the Claimant was, in law, suing himself.

The Defendant made an application to the Court to strike out the Claimant's claim.

The decision

The Deputy District Judge accepted the Defendant's arguments. The trustees (who were also members) of the unincorporated association were the named defendants. There is no duty of care between members of an unincorporated association except where imposed by its constitution. The Deputy District Judge could see nothing in the constitution that would impose a duty of care and the claim was struck out.

Forbes comment

This is a fantastic result for the Defendant. Not only was the claim struck out but the Defendant was also awarded its costs. We were able to successfully argue that QOCS should not apply as there were no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and the claim had been struck out for that reason (CPR 44.15).

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