• Tom alleged his psychiatric injury was caused by the negligence of his employers through putting upon him an unrealistic workload and level of responsibilities over several years, increasing the burdens on him at work while removing the resources and assistance he needed to do his job effectively. He was working excessive hours including on call time at weekends or evenings and found himself unable to take his full holiday allocation.

    In the December his employers were handed a letter from his GP warning of the toll that work pressures were having on his health. He was referred to occupational health and an action plan drawn up in January to improve the situation.

    Unfortunately, that action plan was never implemented by his manager, who was distracted by her own grievance against her manager. The claimant’s condition deteriorated, leading to his breakdown in June and his permanent ill health retirement the following February, over 10 years early.

    Sadly, Tom’s wife left him the autumn after his breakdown. The defendant effectively contested everything; negligence, foreseeability, causation of the illness and put in issue all aspects of the claim’s value. Outrageously they argued that Tom was malingering and was “fit” for work by about 2 years after his nervous breakdown if not before. They even blamed Tom himself for his breakdown, alleging contributory negligence. They also argued his main problems arose from his “unrelated” marriage breakdown.

    The two psychiatric medical experts took very different opposing positions. The claim took ten years from original instruction to resolve. Inevitably the time we had to take in dealing with the case was increased by the fact that we were acting for a psychologically very vulnerable client, where the subject matter of the litigation was the cause of his serious psychiatric illness. Sadly dealing with the litigation only worsened Tom’s condition, although we and our excellent barrister (Patrick Green) did our best to sympathetically support him through the claim process.

    During the ten years it took to bring Tom’s claim to its successful conclusion there were various delays over which we had no control; some by the courts but also delays and breaches by the defendant’s insurers/their solicitors. They did make one offer to settle 6 years earlier- for £100,000- which we and Patrick our counsel considered inadequate and Tom therefore rejected. Various compromises offers were put to them, starting with an offer of £150,000. However, they were not prepared to move on their original offer.

    Following a two week trial in and subsequent hearings the judge found that negligent work stress was the cause of the claimant’s original nervous breakdown/severe depression and the loss of his job. However, he also found Tom would have had to stop work anyway a year later due to the psychological impact of his marriage breakdown.

    We had argued that the marriage probably would not have broken down but for negligent work stress but the judge found against us on that point. We then argued that even on that finding Tom should be entitled to some further loss of earnings and loss of pension for breach of implied term of mutual trust and confidence in failing to re-grade the claimant’s position. (The claimant’s replacement was given the job at a higher local authority pay grade and if the claimant’s job had been regarded before his employment ended he would have got a higher pension). He found against us on that issue.

    Several months after the original hearing the judge gave judgment limited to £35,615, less than the defendant’s previous offer. We successfully appealed the Judge’s decision to cut off the loss of earnings claim after only one year.

    The Court of Appeal ordered there to be a retrial (before the same judge) on the loss of earnings claim and his finding that the loss of earnings claim was cut off after one year due to the marriage breakdown.

    The retrial took place the following autumn, the judge giving his judgment in 2 parts.

    One potentially complicating matter the judge had to consider at the re-trial was what impact if any would Tom’s recent bowel cancer have had on the loss of earnings claim. After the re-trial the judge found that the marriage would not have caused the claimant to stop working but for the original negligent work stress. He accepted the claimant was not fit for work subsequently. However, he decided that Tom probably would have chosen to retire anyway after 5 years. The cutoff date for the loss of earnings claim was therefore the claimant’s 60th birthday in November 2009. He made no express ruling on whether the Tom’s position should have been regraded, but implied it would not have been.

    Tom was awarded the revised principal sum of £175,343.11 before interest and enhancements. However, because the claimant had matched and beaten his previous offers he was awarded a 10% enhancement to his damages and an enhanced rate of interest of 8 % per annum from December 2008. Tom’s eventual revised award was just short of £300,000.

    Tom expressed his gratitude for our efforts on his behalf and rated the service he had received as “excellent”.

    Tom commented:

    Jeremy has been fantastic. For something that went on for such a long time I do not believe I could have asked for better.

    We were just sorry that it had to take 10 years before we could get proper justice for him.


    Jeremy Horton specialises in workplace psychiatric injury claims on a no win no fee basis. If you were a victim of workplace psychiatric injury our PTSD services may be able to help. If you then believe you may have a good claim please contact Jeremy for free advice at JeremyHorton@brachers.co.uk

    This content is correct at time of publication

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