Sutherland 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 no special controls on claims for psychiatric (or physical) injury or illness arising from the stress of doing work an employee has to do.
Hale LJ said: ‘If the standard of care expected of employers is set too high or the threshold of liability too low, there may also be unforeseen and unwelcome effects upon the employment market. In particular, employers may be even more reluctant than they already are to take on people with a significant psychiatric history.’
. . and ‘There are no special control mechanisms applying to claims for psychiatric (or physical) illness or injury arising from the stress of doing the work the employee is required to do. The ordinary principles of employer’s liability apply.
The threshold question is whether this kind of harm to this particular employee was reasonably foreseeable: this has two components (a) an injury to health (as distinct from occupational stress) which (b) is attributable to stress at work (as distinct from other factors). Foreseeability depends upon what the employer knows (or ought reasonably to know) about the individual employee. Because of the nature of mental disorder, it is harder to foresee than physical injury, but may be easier to foresee in a known individual than in the population at large. An employer is usually entitled to assume that the employees can withstand the normal pressures of the job unless he knows of some particular problem or vulnerability.’
. . and ‘ because of the very nature of psychiatric injury, as a sufficiently serious departure from normal or average psychological functioning to be labelled a disorder, it is bound to be harder to foresee than is physical injury . . All of this points to there being a single test: whether a harmful reaction to the pressures of the workplace is reasonably foreseeable in the individual employee concerned. Such a reaction will have two components: (1) An injury to health; which (2) is attributable to stress at work. The answer to the foreseeability question will therefore depend upon the interrelationship between the particular characteristics of the employee concerned and the particular demands which the employer cast upon him.’

Lord Justice Brooke, Lady Justice Hale, And, Lord Justice Kay
Times 12-Feb-2002, Gazette 21-Mar-2002, [2002] EWCA Civ 76, [2002] 2 All ER 1, [2002] ICR 613, [2002] PIQR P221, [2002] Emp LR 288, [2002] IRLR 263, (2002) 68 BMLR 115
England and Wales
CitedWilsons and Clyde Coal Co Ltd v English HL 19-Jul-1937
The employer had entrusted the task of organising a safe system of work to an employee as a result of whose negligence another employee was injured. The employer could not have been held liable for its own negligence, since it had taken all . .
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 . .

Cited by:
CitedKeen v Tayside Contracts OHCS 26-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages for post traumatic stress disorder. He was a road worker instructed to attend by the defendant immediately after a terrible accident.
Held: It was a classic case of nervous shock. He was not a rescuer, and nor had . .
CitedBonser v UK Coal Mining Ltd CA 9-Jun-2003
The employer appealed a finding that it was responsible in negligence to a staff member for stress related injury at work. The claimant had worked in the coal industry for 20 years, but she had then been made redundant. The defendants took her on as . .
CitedAB and others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust QBD 26-Mar-2004
Representative claims were made against the respondents, hospitals, pathologists etc with regard to the removal of organs from deceased children without the informed consent of the parents. They claimed under the tort of wrongful interference.
Appeal fromBarber 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 . .
DistinguishedDonachie 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 . .
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 . .
CitedValidi v Fairstead House School Trust Ltd CA 9-Jun-2005
The claimant sought damages for work related stress. The court in dismissing the appeal regretted that so much had been spent on the case. The principles have now been settled, and the parties should test a case against those principles, and go for . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedBarker v Corus (UK) Plc HL 3-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after contracting meselothemia working for the defendants. The defendants argued that the claimants had possibly contracted the disease at any one or more different places. The Fairchild case set up an exception to the . .
CitedD v Intel Corporation (UK) Ltd QBD 23-May-2006
The claimant sought damages for stress incurred at work. She had suffered post natal depression and received counselling through her work and recovered. She suffered a second bout of depression after the birth of another child, but again was thought . .
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 . .
CitedHelen Green v DB Group Services (UK) Ltd QBD 1-Aug-2006
The claimant sought damages from her former employers, asserting that workplace bullying and harassment had caused injury to her health. She had had a long term history of depression after being abused as a child, and the evidence was conflicting, . .
CitedClark v The Chief Constable of Essex Police QBD 18-Sep-2006
The officer had retired on ill health grounds, and now sought damages from his chief constable saying that the duties imposed on him had been excessive, and had caused his injury by negligence, and that he had been bullied by co-workers and had not . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedFlood v The University Court of the University of Glasgow OHCS 8-Jul-2008
The pursuer, a college lecturer claimed damages for stress related injury suffered as a result of overwork. She had communicated with her managers many times about the overload. Other staff had resigned for similar reasons.
Held: The pursuer . .
CitedVeakins v Kier Islington Ltd CA 2-Dec-2009
The claimant alleged that her manager at work had harassed her. The court, applying Conn, had found that none of the acts complained of were sufficiently serious to amount to criminal conduct, and had rejected the claim.
Held: The claimant’s . .
CitedRayment v Ministry of Defence QBD 18-Feb-2010
The claimant sought damages alleging harassment by officers employed by the defendant. An internal investigation had revealed considerable poor behaviour by the senior officers, and that was followed by hostile behaviour. The defendant had put up . .
CitedConnor v Surrey County Council CA 18-Mar-2010
The claimant teacher said that she suffered personal injury from stress after the board of governors improperly failed to protect her from from false complaints. The Council now appealed against an award of substantial damages.
Held: The . .
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, Health and Safety, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.167557