Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd: CA 31 Mar 2006

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 appealed against refusal of an award under the 1976 Act. The judge had decided that it was not part of the employer’s duty of care to prevent a later suicide.
Held: The widow’s appeal succeeded. If the suicide arose from the depression, it was a consequence of the injury which led to the depression and forseeable. The suicide was not a new intervening cause.
Ward LJ (dissenting) siad: ‘there are five requirements for the tort of negligence: (1) the existence in law of a duty of care (2) breach of that duty; (3) damage; (4) a causal connection between the defendant’s careless conduct and the damage and (5) the particular kind of damage not being too remote. ‘ Suicide was no longer an offence and it was wrong to apply the M’Naughten system: ‘In a just system of compensation, the tortfeasor cannot escape his responsibility by asserting a break in the chain of causation if his act has caused a depression and the depression so has unhinged the mind as to ‘dethrone [the] power of volition’.’ and ‘the question of reasonable foresight must be judged in the light of the circumstances which were known and ought to have been known at the time the accident occurred, and not with the benefit of hindsight. ‘ At the time of the accident it could have been reasonably foreseen that the accident would lead to suicide.
Sedley LJ: ‘There is thus no prior ground of legal logic, and no surviving ground of legal policy, for excluding suicide from the compensable consequences of actionable negligence. If a case of suicide is to be excluded, it has to be because the evidence has failed to establish that the judgment and volition of the deceased were overwhelmed by depression consequent on the injury. This is in each case a matter of factual inquiry.’ The depression which led to thw suicide was entirely derived from the accident.


Ward, Sedley, Wilson LJJ


[2006] EWCA Civ 331, Times 21-Apr-2006, [2006] ICR 1138, [2007] QB 46, [2006] 2 All ER 929, [2006] 3 WLR 395




Fatal Accidents Act 1976


England and Wales


CitedChurch v Dugdale and Adams Ltd CA 1929
The court was asked whether an employer was responsible in law to a workman who having been injured so as to leave the employer liable under the Workers’ Compensation Acts, later committed suicide.
Held: Lord Hamworth MR said: ‘It is necessary . .
CitedMurdoch v British Israel World Federation 1942
The court considered the nature of a deceased’s insanity so as to prevent his suicide operating as a novus actus interveniens: ‘The plaintiff, in my opinion has succeeded in proving that her husband was so insane at the time he committed suicide as . .
CitedOrange v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police CA 1-May-2001
Police and prison authorities had a duty of care to those in their custody, which included a duty to perform an assessment of the risk of the prisoner committing suicide, but did not have a general duty to take steps to prevent suicide in the . .
CitedRahman v Arearose Limited and Another, University College London, NHS Trust CA 15-Jun-2000
The claimant had suffered a vicious physical assault from which the claimant’s employers should have protected him, and an incompetently performed surgical operation. Three psychiatrists agreed that the aetiology of the claimant’s very severe . .
CitedBourhill v Young’s Executor HL 5-Aug-1942
When considering claims for damages for shock, the court only recognised the action lying where the injury by shock was sustained ‘through the medium of the eye or the ear without direct contact.’ Wright L said: ‘No doubt, it has long ago been . .
CitedJolley v Sutton London Borough Council HL 24-May-2000
An abandoned boat had been left on its land and not removed by the council. Children tried to repair it, jacked it up, and a child was injured when it fell. It was argued for the boy, who now appealed dismissal of his claim by the Court of Appeal, . .
CitedCavanagh v London Transport Executive 23-Oct-1956
The deceased stepped onto the road just behind a taxi cab which was stationary or just drawing up. He neither saw nor heard an approaching number bus and walked directly into its path. He suffered a fractured skull. There was evidence that his . .
CitedHoldlen Pty Ltd v Walsh 2000
(New South Wales – Court of Appeal) Giles JA said: ‘but it is now more readily recognised that in causation, said to be a question of fact though tempered by value judgements and infused with policy considerations because with a view to allocating . .
No Longer good lawPigney v Pointers Transport Services Ltd 1957
Mr Pigney had suffered severe head injuries in an accident in the course of his employment with the defendant. He committed suicide eighteen months later.
Held: The court considered whether the accident could be the cause of the suicide: ‘It . .
CitedCommissioner of Police for the Metropolis v Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL 15-Jul-1999
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 . .
CitedPage v Smith HL 12-May-1995
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 . .
CitedKirkham v Anderton, The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester police CA 20-Dec-1989
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 . .
CitedAllan v Barclay IHCS 1864
Lord Kinloch said: ‘The grand rule on the subject of damages is, that none can be claimed except such as naturally and directly arise out of the wrong done; and such, therefore, as may reasonably be supposed to have been in the view of the . .
CitedIn re Polemis and Furness, Withy and Co CA 1921
There was an exception in a time Charterparty for ‘fire . . always mutually accepted.’
Held: These words were not sufficient to exclude damage caused by a fire due to the negligent act of stevedores (the charterers’ agents) in the course of . .
CitedCowan v National Coal Board 1958
An employee of the defenders suffered an injury to his eye in the course of his employment. He became nervous and depressed and committed suicide about four months after the accident. His widow and children sought damages from the National Coal . .
CitedMcKew v Holland and Hannan and Cubitts HL 26-Nov-1969
The appellant had been injured in the course of his employment for which the respondents were liable. Sometimes his left leg would gave way beneath him. He was descending a steep staircase without a handrail when the leg collapsed and he tried to . .
CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound No 1) PC 18-Jan-1961
Foreseeability Standard to Establish Negligence
Complaint was made that oil had been discharged into Sydney Harbour causing damage. The court differentiated damage by fire from other types of physical damage to property for the purposes of liability in tort, saying ‘We have come back to the plain . .
CitedSimmons v British Steel plc HL 29-Apr-2004
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 . .
CitedHughes v Lord Advocate HL 21-Feb-1963
The defendants had left a manhole uncovered and protected only by a tent and paraffin lamp. A child climbed down the hole. When he came out he kicked over one of the lamps. It fell into the hole and caused an explosion. The child was burned. The . .
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedThe Attorney General v Hartwell PC 23-Feb-2004
PC (The British Virgin Islands) A police officer had taken the police revolver, and used it to shoot the claimant. It was alleged that the respondent police force were vicariously liable for his acts and also . .
CitedTomlinson v Congleton Borough Council and others HL 31-Jul-2003
The claimant dived into a lake, severely injuring himself. The council appealed liability, arguing that it owed him no duty of care under the Act since he was a trespasser. It had placed warning signs to deter swimmers.
Held: The council’s . .
CitedMarch v E and MH Stramore 1991
Considerations of policy and value judgments necessarily enter into the assessment of causation. . .
CitedClunis (By his Next Friend Prince) v Camden and Islington Health Authority CA 5-Dec-1997
The plaintiff had killed someone and, as a result, been convicted of manslaughter and ordered to be detained in a secure hospital when subject to after-care under section 117 of the 1983 Act. He sought damages from the health authority on the basis . .
CitedWright v Davidson 7-Feb-1992
(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 . .
Appeal fromCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd QBD 28-Apr-2005
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 . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd HL 27-Feb-2008
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 24 April 2022; Ref: scu.239800