Pratley v Surrey County Council: CA 25 Jul 2003

The claimant sought damages for personal injury namely stress suffered in the course of her work as a care manager. She said that she had been overworked, and suffered depression when a proposal for reducing the work load remained unimplemented. The court at first instance held that the system of working imposed upon the claimant involved a foreseeable risk of injury to her in the long term, but not a foreseeable risk of imminent injury, so her claim failed.
Held: The court set out 16 principles to be looked at when assessing such a claim. ‘There is a potentially relevant distinction between a risk of psychiatric injury arising from continuing overload in the future, and a risk of collapse in the short-term arising from disappointment of a ‘cherished idea’ developed as a result of a conversation about possible problems if there was continuing work overload over a further period. The harm in each case is psychiatric injury, but not only does it occur by quite different mechanisms, more importantly it occurs at quite different times. It follows that the judge was right to consider whether the risk of imminent collapse was foreseeable, which he held was not.’ Buxton LJ: ‘It is not the act but the consequences on which tortious liability is founded. The defendant will be deemed liable for those consequences, not because he has caused them in the course of some careless or otherwise undesirable activity, but only if they were caused by his failure to take precautions against a foreseen or foreseeable and legally relevant danger.’ The appeal failed.
Mance LJ, Buxton LJ
[2003] EWCA Civ 1067, [2004] ICR 159, [2003] IRLR 794, [2004] PIQR P17
Bailii
England and Wales
Citing:
Application for leavePratley v Surrey County Council CA 16-Oct-2002
Application for leave to appeal . .
Appeal fromPratley v Surrey County Council QBD 31-Jul-2002
The claimant sought damages. She had been employed by the respondent in the social services department but came to suffer from stress, and had to give up work.
Held: A claimant in such a position had to do something to make it clear to the . .
CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound) (No 2) PC 25-May-1966
(New South Wales) When considering the need to take steps to avoid injury, the court looked to the nature of defendant’s activity. There was no social value or cost saving in this defendant’s activity. ‘In the present case there was no justification . .

Cited by:
Full AppealPratley v Surrey County Council CA 16-Oct-2002
Application for leave to appeal . .
Appealed toPratley v Surrey County Council QBD 31-Jul-2002
The claimant sought damages. She had been employed by the respondent in the social services department but came to suffer from stress, and had to give up work.
Held: A claimant in such a position had to do something to make it clear to the . .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 20 February 2021; Ref: scu.184832