Corr -v- IBC Vehicles Ltd; HL 27 Feb 2008

References: [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 2 WLR 499, [2008] 2 All ER 943, [2008] ICR 372, [2008] AC 884, [2008] PIQR P11
Links: Bailii
Coram: Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Mance, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury
The claimant’s husband had committed suicide. She sought damages for financial loss from his former employers under the 1976 Act. He had suffered a severe and debilitating injury working for them leading to his depression and suicide. The employers said that these damages were too remote.
Held: The employer’s appeal was dismissed.
Lord Bingham said: ‘Mr Corr’s suicide was not a voluntary, informed decision taken by him as an adult of sound mind making and giving effect to a personal decision about his future. It was the response of a man suffering from a severely depressive illness which impaired his capacity to make reasoned and informed judgments about his future, such illness being, as is accepted, a consequence of the employer’s tort. It is in no way unfair to hold the employer responsible for this dire consequence of its breach of duty, although it could well be thought unfair to the victim not to do so.’ and ‘The law does not generally treat us as our brother’s keeper, responsible for what he may choose to do to his own disadvantage. It is his choice. But I do not think that the submission addresses the particular features of this case. The employer owed the deceased the duty already noted, embracing psychological as well as physical injury. Its breach caused him injury of both kinds. While he was not, at the time of his death, insane in M’Naghten’s terms, nor was he fully responsible. He acted in a way which he would not have done but for the injury from which the employer’s breach caused him to suffer. This being so, I do not think his conduct in taking his own life can be said to fall outside the scope of the duty which his employer owed him. ‘
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘On a ‘but for’ test, his jump from the top of the multi-storey carpark can be said to have been ’caused’ by his employer’s negligence. But the developing case law has placed limits on the extent of the ‘but for’ consequences of actionable negligence for which the negligent actor can be held liable. This case engages and questions the extent of those limits . . The question in this case, therefore, is whether Mr Corr’s deliberate act of jumping from a high building in order to kill himself, an apparent novus actus, albeit one that was causally connected, on a ‘but-for’ basis, to the original negligence, broke the claim of causative consequences for which Mr Corr’s negligent employers must accept responsibility.’
Statutes: Fatal Accidents Act 1976 1, Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
This case cites:

  • Appeal from – Corr -v- IBC Vehicles Ltd CA (Bailii, [2006] EWCA Civ 331, Times 21-Apr-06, [2006] ICR 1138, [2007] QB 46, [2006] 2 All ER 929, [2006] 3 WLR 395)
    The deceased had suffered a head injury whilst working for the defendant. In addition to severe physical consequences he suffered post-traumatic stress, became more and more depressed, and then committed suicide six years later. The claimant . .
  • Cited – Page -v- Smith HL (Gazette 14-Jun-95, Independent 12-May-95, Times 12-May-95, (1995) 92 LSG 33, [1995] RTR 210, [1996] AC 155, [1995] 2 All ER 736, Bailii, [1995] UKHL 7, [1995] PIQR P329, [1995] 2 WLR 644, [1995] 2 Lloyds Rep 95)
    The plaintiff was driving his car when the defendant turned into his path. Both cars suffered considerable damage but the drivers escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff had a pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome, which manifested itself from time . .
  • Approved – Wright -v- Davidson ((1992) 88 DLR (4th) 698, Canlii, 1992 CanLII 1020 (BC BA), [1992] 3 WWR 611, (1992), 64 BCLR (2d) 113)
    (British Columbia Court of Appeal) The court rejected a claim for damages for a suicide after the deceased claimant had suffered injury in a road collision because the conscious decision of the deceased to take her own life had occurred without any . .
  • Cited – St George’s Healthcare National Health Service Trust -v- S (No 2); Regina -v- Collins and Others ex parte S (No 2) CA (Times 03-Aug-98, Bailii, [1998] EWCA Civ 1349, [1999] Fam 26)
    The patient came to hospital pregnant. The doctors advised a caesarian section but she refused it. The doctors said that she lacked capacity and applied to the court for leave to proceed.
    Held: It was wrong to apply to the court to override . .
  • Cited – Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis -v- Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL (Times 16-Jul-99, Gazette 11-Aug-99, House of Lords, Bailii, [1999] 3 WLR 363, [1999] UKHL 35, [2000] 1 AC 360, [1999] 3 All ER 897)
    The deceased was a prisoner known to be at risk of committing suicide. Whilst in police custody he hanged himself in his prison cell. The Commissioner accepted that he was in breach of his duty of care to the deceased, but not that that breach was . .
  • Cited – Daniel M’Naghten’s Case HL ((1843) 10 Cl & Fin 200, [1843] 8 ER 718, Bailii, [1843] UKHL J16, [1843] EngR 875, Commonlii)
    Daniel M’Naghten suffered from a mental disorder under which he believed that he was being persecuted by various bodies in authority, including the Tory Party. He sought to kill the Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, but shot and killed instead . .
  • Cited – Stapley -v- Gypsum Mines Ltd HL ([1953] AC 663, Bailii, [1953] UKHL 4, [1953] 2 All ER 478, [1953] 3 WLR 279)
    The question was whether the fault of the deceased’s fellow workman, they both having disobeyed their foreman’s instructions, was to be regarded as having contributed to the accident.
    Held: A plaintiff must ‘share in the responsibility for the . .
  • Cited – Regina -v- Kennedy HL (Bailii, [2007] UKHL 38, Times 19-Oct-07, [2007] 4 All ER 1083, [2007] 3 WLR 612, [2007] Inquest LR 234, [2008] 1 Cr App Rep 19, [2008] Crim LR 222, [2008] AC 269)
    The defendant had been convicted of manslaughter. He had supplied a class A drug to a friend who then died taking it.
    Held: The House was asked ‘When is it appropriate to find someone guilty of manslaughter where that person has been involved . .
  • Cited – Smith -v- Leech Brain & Co Ltd CA ([1962] 2 QB 405)
    The reasoning in The Wagon Mound did not affect the rule that a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds him.
    Lord Parker CJ said: ‘The test is not whether these employers could reasonably have foreseen that a burn would cause cancer and that . .
  • Cited – Kirkham -v- Anderton, The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester police CA ([1989] 2 QB 283, [1990] 3 All ER 246, Bailii, [1989] EWCA Civ 3)
    The claimant’s husband hanged himself in Risley Remand Centre after the police had failed to warn the prison authorities that he was (as the police knew) a suicide risk. He was suffering from clinical depression and had previously attempted suicide . .
  • Cited – AMP General Insurance Ltd -v- Roads & Traffic Authority of New South Wales ([2001] Aust Torts Reports 81, [2001] NSWCA 186, Austlii)
    (Supreme Court of New South Wales) Spigelman CJ said: ‘There was no duty upon the employer . . to protect the deceased from self harm’. . .
  • Cited – Simmons -v- British Steel plc HL (House of Lords, [2004] UKHL 20, Bailii, Times 04-May-04, [2004] ICR 585, 2004 GWD 14-315, [2004] PIQR P33, 2004 SLT 595)
    The claimant was injured at work as a consequence of the defender’s negligence. His injuries became more severe, and he came to suffer a disabling depression.
    Held: the Inner House had been wrong to characterise the Outer House decision as . .
  • At first Instance – Corr -v- IBC Vehicles Ltd QBD (Bailii, [2005] EWHC 895 (QB), [2006] PIQR P11)
    The claimant’s husband had been employed by the defendant and had suffered severe head injuries because of malfunctioning machinery. He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and that led to depression. He ultimately committed suicide. His widow . .

This case is cited by:

  • Cited – Gray -v- Thames Trains Ltd and Another CA (Bailii, [2008] EWCA Civ 713, Times 09-Jul-08, [2009] 2 WLR 351)
    The claimant was a victim of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. He later committed and was convicted of a manslaughter and detained under the 1983 Act. He said that the accident had caused a major personality change. The defendant relied on the defence . .
  • Cited – St George -v- The Home Office CA (B3/2007/2778, Bailii, [2008] EWCA Civ 1068, Times 22-Oct-08)
    The claimant was taken into prison. He was known to be subject to epilepsy, with high risks on withdrawal from drugs, but was allocated a high bunk. He had a seizure and fell, suffering head injuries. He sought damages in negligence. The defendant . .
  • Cited – Environment Agency -v- Ellis CA (Bailii, [2008] EWCA Civ 1117)
    The claimant was injured working for the appellants. The appellants now appealed the finding that they were responsible saying that other factors contributed to the injury, and in particular that he had fallen at home. The claimant said that that . .
  • Cited – Chubb Fire Ltd -v- The Vicar of Spalding & Churchwardens and Church Council of The Church of St Mary & St Nicholas, Spalding CA (Bailii, [2010] EWCA Civ 981)
    The appellants had supplied a dry powder extinguisher to the church. Vandals discharged the extinguisher, requiring substantial sums to be spent cleaning the dust. The church’s insurers sought to recover the costs saying that the appellant should . .
  • Cited – Gnango, Regina -v- SC ([2012] 2 All ER 129, [2012] 2 WLR 17, [2012] 1 Cr App R 18, [2012] 1 AC 827, Bailii, [2011] UKSC 59, SC Summary, SC, UKSC 2010/0165, Bailii Summary)
    The prosecutor appealed against a successful appeal by the defendant against his conviction for murder. He and an opponent had engaged in a street battle using guns. His opponent had shot an innocent passer by. The court was now asked as to whether . .

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