Kent v Griffiths [2001] QB 36

Key point

  • An ambulance service when responding to a call is not acting in pursuance of a public duty but a duty to the caller


  • A doctor called for an ambulance and was assured that it was on its way, but the ambulance did not arrive until well after ‘target’ time
  • As a result, C suffered respiratory arrest
  • C sued D ambulance service for negligence
  • The doctor gave evidence that if she had been informed of the delay she would have driven C to hospital

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • D was liable for negligence; a duty of care had arisen from the assurance and it was breached

Lord Woolf

  • Here what was provided was a health service, in which a conventional situation gives rise to a duty of care and ambulance staff should not be different from doctors or nurses
  • Policy reasons against the imposition of a duty of care are weaker compared to police or fire brigades as their obligation is to the public at large
  • In this particular case, only C was adversely affected for the negligence, not the wider public


  • The key point here is that an assumption of responsibility arose from the assurance and not merely the picking up of the call c.f. Michael, where it was ruled that police operator’s mere response without assurance to a woman’s call did not amount to an assumption of responsibility