On 7th September, Des Voeux Chambers hosted, for the third year, the DVC Oxford-HKU Visiting Fellowship Public Lecture at the University of Hong Kong, featuring this year’s awardees of the DVC Oxford-HKU Visiting Fellowships, Dr. Jeremias Prassl (Associate Professor, Fellow of Magdalen College) and Dr. Sandy Steel (Associate Professor, Fellow of Wadham College). We were also graced by the presence of the Honourable Mr. Justice Harris, who moderated the lecture, and Michael Lok from DVC made the opening remarks.
The annual Fellowship was founded by Des Voeux Chambers three years ago, which supports academic visitors from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford to spend around 4 weeks at the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong. The Fellowship aims to foster academic and intellectual exchange between the two Faculties, as well as to encourage an enhanced understanding of the Hong Kong jurisdiction by up and coming academics trained in England & Wales. This is the first year we have had two visiting DVC Oxford-HKU Visiting Fellows concurrently. Previous recipients include Professor Stefan Enchelmaier (Lincoln College) and Dr. Imogen Goold (St Anne’s College).
Gigs, rides and tasks constitute some of the most innovative forms of employment in today’s economy. Dr Prassl presented an engaging talk entitled “Humans as a Service: The Promise and Perils of Work in the Gig Economy.” He posed questions which embraced the economic implications of employment classifications in the context of disruptors that included household names such as Uber (taxi drivers,) Task Rabbit (for domestic work) and Amazon’s Mechanical Turks for digital services. In an interactive discussion which drew the audience in, Dr Prassl asked: can Uber drivers be categorised as independent contractors or employees? Are they entitled to protection? Is the current paradigm outdated and should we be looking to define a new concept of employer? Dr Prassl contemplated these issues and more and advanced answers which saw traditional models and archetypes upended.
Dr Sandy Steel is the winner of the Wedderburn Prize for his 2016 article “Justifying Exceptions to Causation in Tort Law.” He delivered a thought-provoking talk entitled “Justifying Damages: Corrective Justice, Civil Recourse or Something Else” which challenged the view that the breach of a primary tortious or contractual duty causing actionable harm conventionally gives rise immediately to a secondary duty to pay damages. He suggested instead that that this ‘liability view’ posed a challenge to corrective justice theories of damages which claim that the justification of damages (sometimes) rests upon a secondary moral duty. Dr Steel proffered novel arguments for the duty view and suggested that even if the legal liability view turned out to be correct, the moral duty of repair would still be critical to rationalising the existence of the liability.