Landmark ruling - Employer liable for injured workers
"Companies will have to take action to look after the
mental health of workers who suffer a physical accident at work, following a
landmark ruling on employers liability in suicide cases."
Employer liable for injured workers subsequent
Companies will have to take action to look after the mental
health of workers who suffer a physical accident at work, following a landmark
ruling on employers liability in suicide cases.
On 27 February
the House of Lords upheld a Court of Appeal judgement of March 2006 that
Luton-based IBC Vehicles Ltd was responsible for the death of former employee
Thomas Corr, who committed suicide as a result of depression he developed after
an accident at the firm.
In 1996, Mr Corr was almost decapitated by a
metal panel from a defective machine at the firm, one of Bedfordshires
biggest employers. He subsequently suffered from severe headaches, insomnia,
bad temper, and depression. In May 2002, he jumped to his death from a
high-rise car park.
In April 2005, Mr Corrs widow Eileen went to
the High Court to sue for damages for the pain, suffering, and eventual loss
caused by the accident and subsequent suicide of her husband. IBC, which makes
vehicles for Vauxhall and others, admitted responsibility for the accident but
not for the suicide. Mrs Corr was awarded £82,520 in damages but she
appealed, leading to the Court of Appeals ruling that IBC was responsible
for the suicide.
Upholding that judgement, Lord Bingham said: Mr
Corrs suicide [was] the response of a man suffering from a severely
depressive illness that had impaired his capacity to make reasoned and informed
judgements about his future, such illness being a consequence of IBCs
tort. It was not unfair to hold IBC responsible for that dire consequence of
its breach of duty.
Trevor Sterling, of Unite solicitors Rowley
Ashworth, who took the case on Mrs Corrs behalf, commented: This is
a landmark case, demonstrating advancement in the knowledge and understanding
of mental health issues.
Emotional support charity the Samaritans
said job-related stress has a serious and unrecognised impact on
peoples health and urged employers and employees to speak out
and discuss problems before they escalate.