Barber v Somerset County Council: HL 1 Apr 2004

A teacher sought damages from his employer after suffering a work related stress breakdown.
Held: The definition of the work expected of him did not justify the demand placed upon him. The employer could have checked up on him during his sickness absences, and given him support. It did not do so. It was liable.
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry said that it is only when the contractual position between the parties is explored fully along with the relevant statutory framework that it would be possible to give appropriate content to the duty of reasonable care upon which an employee claiming damages for negligent infliction of psychiatric injury at work would seek to rely.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Steyn, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
[2004] UKHL 13, Times 05-Apr-2004, [2004] 1 WLR 1089, (2004) 77 BMLR 21, [2004] 2 All ER 385, [2004] ELR 199, [2004] ICR 457, [2004] IRLR 475, [2004] PIQR P3
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
CitedStokes v Guest Keen and Nettlefold (Nuts and Bolts) Ltd QBD 1968
An employee had been exposed at work over a long period to mineral oil which, on a daily basis, had saturated his clothing and come into contact with his skin. As a result of this he developed cancer of the scrotum from which he eventually died. The . .
Appeal fromSutherland v Hatton; Barber v Somerset County Council and similar CA 5-Feb-2002
Defendant employers appealed findings of liability for personal injuries consisting of an employee’s psychiatric illness caused by stress at work.
Held: Employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. There are . .
CitedWatt (or Thomas) v Thomas HL 1947
When Scots Appellate Court may set decision aside
The House considered when it was appropriate for an appellate court in Scotland to set aside the judgment at first instance.
Lord Thankerton said: ‘(1) Where a question of fact has been tried by a judge without a jury, and there is no question . .
CitedClarke v Edinburgh and District Tramways Co HL 1919
The House considered the ability of an appellate court to reconsider the facts.
Held: The privileges enjoyed by a trial judge extend not only to questions of credibility.
Lord Shaw said that the judge enjoys ‘those advantages, sometimes . .
CitedWithers v Perry Chain Co Ltd CA 21-Jul-1961
An employee with dermatitis returned to work when it was known both to him and his employers that continuing to work would carry a small risk of it recurring or being exacerbated.
Held: The Court allowed the employer’s appeal against the trial . .
CitedWalker v Northumberland County Council QBD 16-Nov-1994
The plaintiff was a manager within the social services department. He suffered a mental breakdown in 1986, and had four months off work. His employers had refused to provide the increased support he requested. He had returned to work, but again, did . .
CitedJohnstone v Bloomsbury Health Authority CA 1991
A junior doctor sought an injunction against the defendant health authority from being required to work excessive hours despite the terms of his contract. He had become ill as a result of inadequate sleep and sought damages in that respect. Implied . .
CitedMcDonald or Cross and Another v Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Another SCS 5-Dec-2000
A promising 39-year old executive, was employed in a job in which (because of geographical factors) close day-to-day supervision of his work was impossible. He became ill with depressive illness and killed himself. After the employee had been off . .
CitedRoss v Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd HL 1964
Where one party brings no evidence to challenge that of the other, that other is entitled to the most favourable interpretation of his evidence. Where a party has led no evidence upon a particular matter, the most favourable inferences may properly . .
CitedWhite, Frost and others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others HL 3-Dec-1998
No damages for Psychiatric Harm Alone
The House considered claims by police officers who had suffered psychiatric injury after tending the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Held: The general rules restricting the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric harm applied to the . .

Cited by:
CitedDonachie v The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police CA 7-Apr-2004
The claimant had been asked to work under cover. The surveillance equipment he was asked to use was faulty, requiring him to put himself at risk repeatedly to maintain it resulting in a stress disorder and a stroke.
Held: There was a direct . .
CitedBanks v Ablex Ltd CA 24-Feb-2005
The claimant appealed denial of her claim for damages for psychological injury. She complained that her employer had failed to prevent her and other female employees being bullied by a co-worker, and they committed a breach of statutory duty in . .
CitedHartman v South Essex Mental Health and Community Care NHS Trust etc CA 19-Jan-2005
The court considered the liability of employers for stress injury to several employees.
Held: Though the principles of awarding damages for stress related psychiatric injury are the same as those for physical injury, the issues have still . .
CitedFrench and others v Chief Constable of Sussex Police CA 28-Mar-2006
The claimants sought damages for psychiatric injury. They were police officers who had been subject to unsuccessful proceedings following a shooting of a member of the public by their force.
Held: The claim failed: ‘these claimants have no . .
CitedHone v Six Continents Retail Ltd CA 29-Jun-2005
The employer appealed a finding that it was liable in damages for negligence to the claimant, and employee who suffered psychiatric injury cause by stress at work. He said he had been left to work very excessive hours, between 89 and 92 hours a . .
CitedJohnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd; Rothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd; similar HL 17-Oct-2007
The claimant sought damages for the development of neural plaques, having been exposed to asbestos while working for the defendant. The presence of such plaques were symptomless, and would not themselves cause other asbestos related disease, but . .
CitedRobertson (Ap) v The Scottish Ministers SCS 22-Nov-2007
The claimant sought damages saying that she had been bullied and harassed at her work as a prison officer. . .
CitedDickins v O2 Plc CA 16-Oct-2008
The employer appealed against a finding that it was responsible for the personal injury of the claimant in the form of psychiatric injury resulting from stress suffered working for them. She had told her employers that she was at the end of her . .
CitedBeattie v Ulster Television Plc QBNI 21-Apr-2005
. .
CitedPratt v the Scottish Ministers OHCS 4-May-2005
. .
CitedMG v North Devon NHS Primary Care Trust QBD 28-Apr-2006
Claim for damages – work induced stress and depression – health visitor. . .
CitedFryers v Belfast Health and Social Care Trust QBNI 1-Dec-2008
. .
CitedCampbell v The University of Edinburgh OHCS 4-May-2004
. .
CitedWest Yorkshire Fire and Civil Defence Authority v King EAT 29-Jun-2004
EAT Contract of Employment – Damages for breach of contract – Construction of agreement relating to sick pay and quantum of damage. . .
CitedRingland v South Eastern Education and Library Board QBNI 16-Jun-2004
. .
CitedMcRitchie v The Scottish Ministers ScSf 21-Jul-2004
. .
CitedMcCotter v McNally and Another (John J McNally and Co Solicitors) QBNI 24-Sep-2004
Solicitor’s claim for work related stress. . .
CitedShaw v London Borough of Redbridge QBD 16-Feb-2005
. .
CitedHarding v The Pub Estate Company Ltd CA 6-May-2005
Damages for stress at work – public house manager. . .
CitedVahidi v Fairstead House School Trust Ltd CA 9-Jun-2005
Claim for damages for stress at work by assistant headmaster. . .
CitedRothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd and Another CA 26-Jan-2006
Each claimant sought damages after being exposed to asbestos dust. The defendants resisted saying that the injury alleged, the development of pleural plaques, was yet insufficient as damage to found a claim.
Held: (Smith LJ dissenting) The . .
CitedPakenham-Walsh v Connell Residential and Another CA 21-Feb-2006
Appeal against a judgment dismissing a claim for damages for personal injuries the appellant against her employers and a manager employed by the first respondents. The appellant alleged that she had suffered psychiatric injury in the course of her . .
CitedHome Office v Butchart CA 15-Mar-2006
The claimant prisoner said theat the prison had been negligent in that knowing of his own psychiatric vulnerability, he had been placed in a cell with another priosner who committed suicide, the shock of which caused the claimant further damage. . .
CitedSayers v Cambridgeshire County Council QBD 31-Jul-2006
Social worker’s claim for work related stress. . .
CitedSavage v South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust QBD 21-Dec-2006
The claimant’s daughter had died after walking out of a mental health ward and being knocked down. She sought damages alleging negligence and in infringement of her daughter’s right to life.
Held: Negligence amounting to a breach of the right . .
CitedIntel Corporation (UK) Ltd v Daw CA 7-Feb-2007
The company appealed against an award of damages to the defendant for personal injury in the form of stress induced mental illness.
Held: The reference to counselling services in Hatton did not make such services a panacea by which employers . .
CitedRuddy v Marco and others SCS 25-Jul-2008
. .
CitedBoylin v The Christie NHS Foundation QBD 17-Oct-2014
The claimant a senior employee manager complained of harassment and common law negligence causing her injury.
Held: The claim failed. Behaviour of the level required to found a claim under the 1997 Act was established, but only on one occaion . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Employment

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.195053