Walker 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 not receive the staff or guidance to allow him to do the work asked of him, and he took a second sick leave. He was then dismissed. He sought damages for the employer’s breach of their duty of care.
Held: The employer was liable in negligence for a second work stress induced nervous breakdown. There was no reason in logic why damages should not be recoverable for psychiatric damages, or why the employer should not have a duty to prevent such damage. If a duty of care is established a claimant must then also show that the steps required to deal with it were reasonable in the context, allowing for the resources available, and the risks must be substantial. By the time he returned to work it was reasonably forseeable that further injury would occur, and the authority could not operate policies which would cause injury to its staff, and the court was free to examine such policies. Given the risk, the authority should have taken steps to avoid further injury to the plaintiff.
The standard of care to be expected of a reasonable local authority required that ‘additional assistance should be provided, if not on a permanent basis, at least until restructuring of the social services had been effected and the workload on Mr Walker thereby permanently reduced.’ The assistance should have been provided ‘notwithstanding that it could be expected to have some disruptive effect on the council’s provision of services to the public.’
Colman J
Times 24-Nov-1994, Independent 18-Nov-1994, [1995] 1 All ER 737, [1995] IRLR 35, [1995] ICR 702, [1994] EWHC QB 2, [1995] PIQR P521
England and Wales
ConsideredBolton v Stone HL 10-May-1951
The plaintiff was injured by a prodigious and unprecedented hit of a cricket ball over a distance of 100 yards. He claimed damages in negligence.
Held: When looking at the duty of care the court should ask whether the risk was not so remote . .
CitedGlasgow Corporation v Muir HL 16-Apr-1943
The House considered the proper test to define the standard of care that must be adopted by the reasonable man in a claim for negligence.
Held: Lord Clauson said that the test is whether the person owing the duty of care ‘had in contemplation . .
CitedParis v Stepney Borough Council HL 13-Dec-1950
(Reversed) The House considered a breach of a duty of care in respect of a man blinded in one eye, when there would be no breach of duty if his sight had not been impaired.
Held: The claim succeeded because he was known by his employers to . .
CitedBritish Railways Board v Herrington HL 16-Feb-1972
Land-owner’s Possible Duty to Trespassers
The plaintiff, a child had gone through a fence onto the railway line, and been badly injured. The Board knew of the broken fence, but argued that they owed no duty to a trespasser.
Held: Whilst a land-owner owes no general duty of care to a . .
CitedAnns and Others v Merton London Borough Council HL 12-May-1977
The plaintiff bought her apartment, but discovered later that the foundations were defective. The local authority had supervised the compliance with Building Regulations whilst it was being built, but had failed to spot the fault. The authority . .
CitedLavis v Kent County Council QBD 18-Feb-1992
The plaintiff had received serious injuries whilst riding his motor cycle at a road junction for which the defendants were responsible. He alleged that they were liable to him for failing to ensure that proper warning signs were placed at the . .

Cited by:
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The employee sought damages for breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, even though she remained throughout the employment of the Council against whom she was bringing proceedings.
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The claimant had been absent from work with a psychiatric illness. When he returned, the employers intended that he should work at his own pace and continue to do so for as long as he wished. In practice this arrangement was ignored and he worked . .
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Held: The Act could be compared with the Discrimination Acts . .
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The claimant contended for a common law remedy covering the same ground as the statutory right available to him under the Employment Rights Act 1996 through the Employment Tribunal system.
Held: The statutory system for compensation for unfair . .
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CitedYoung or Logan v Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary NHS Trust SCS 3-Aug-1999
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These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 20 February 2021; Ref: scu.90252