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
Bailii
England and Wales
Citing:
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:
CitedBarber 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 . .
CitedSutherland 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 . .
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 . .
CitedRingland v South Eastern Education and Library Board QBNI 16-Jun-2004
. .
MentionedWhite, 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 . .
CitedLeach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary CA 31-Jul-1998
It was arguable that the police owed a duty of care in negligence to a volunteer they called in to act as appropriate adult in harrowing and traumatic police interviews, and who later suffered nervous shock and stress as a result. The claimant had . .
CitedMcLoughlin v Jones; McLoughlin v Grovers (a Firm) CA 2002
In deciding whether a duty of care is established the court must go to the ‘battery of tests which the House of Lords has taught us to use’, namely: ‘. . the ‘purpose’ test (Banque Bruxelles Lambert SA v Eagle Star Insurance Co Ltd); the ‘assumption . .
CitedGarrett v Camden London Borough Council CA 16-Mar-2001
The court considered a claim for work related stress. The claimant asserted that he had been harassed, intimidated and systematically undermined: ‘Many, alas, suffer breakdowns and depressive illnesses and a significant proportion could doubtless . .
CitedMather v British Telecommunications Plc SCS 30-May-2000
The pursuer sought damages for injury to her mental health, alleging it was sustained as a consequence of the fault of the defenders et separatim the fault of an employee of the defenders. . .
CitedRorrison v West Lothian College and Lothian Regional Council OHCS 21-Jul-1999
The pursuer, a nurse, claimed that she suffered psychological injuries as a result of her treatment at work by two superiors.
Held: The court could find nothing in the pleadings: ‘which, if proved, could establish that Andrews and Henning . .
CitedGreen v Argyll and Bute Council SCS 28-Feb-2002
. .
CitedLaudanska v The University of Abertay ScSf 4-Nov-2003
. .
CitedAlexander and Others v Midland Bank Plc MCLC 26-Aug-1998
(Mayor’s and City of London Court) In claim for repetitive strain injury for typists in absence of obvious physical damage was on balance not psychosomatic. Plaintiffs could show more than passing pain and discomfort and the scheme of work imposing . .
CitedAlexander and others v Midland Bank Plc CA 22-Jul-1999
. .
CitedGogay v Hertfordshire County Council CA 26-Jul-2000
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.
Held: Her remaining in employment was a factor . .
CitedYoung v Post Office CA 30-Apr-2002
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 . .
CitedSussex Ambulance NHS Trust v King CA 5-Jul-2002
The claimant was an ambulance worker. He had been assisting carrying a patient down stairs in a chair. He was injured when his colleague lost his grip, and he suddenly bore the full weight of the patient and chair. He alleged that under the . .
CitedAB X and Y, Regina (on the Application of) v East Sussex County Council and Another Admn 18-Feb-2003
The physical and psychological integrity which the state may in principle be under an obligation to take positive steps to protect under Article 8 included two particularly important concepts. The first was human dignity, the second was the right of . .
CitedMensah v West Middlesex University Hospitals and others EAT 1-May-1998
. .
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 . .
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.
CitedMG v North Devon NHS Primary Care Trust QBD 28-Apr-2006
Claim for damages – work induced stress and depression – health visitor. . .
CitedAngus v Barnet EAT 11-Jul-2000
. .
CitedDunnachie v Kingston Upon Hull City Council; Williams v Southampton Institute; Dawson v Stonham Housing Association EAT 8-Apr-2003
EAT Unfair Dismissal – Compensation
In each case, The employee sought additional damages for non-economic loss after an unfair dismissal.
Held: The Act could be compared with the Discrimination Acts . .
CitedMarshall Specialist Vehicles Limited v Osborne EAT 29-Apr-2003
EAT Unfair Dismissal – Constructive dismissal . .
CitedJohnson v Unisys Ltd HL 23-Mar-2001
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 . .
CitedMackay v Scottish and Southern Energy Plc ScSf 13-Mar-2000
. .
CitedWard v Scotrail Railways Limited SCS 27-Nov-1998
The claimant sought damages from the defender, saying that a co-worker had sexually harrassed her. The behaviour continued after she made a complaint to her employer.
Held: It was conceded that the employee’s conduct was not such as to attract . .
CitedCampbell v North Lanarkshire Council and Scottish Power Plc SCS 30-Jun-1999
. .
CitedYoung or Logan v Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary NHS Trust SCS 3-Aug-1999
. .
CitedFraser v The State Hospitals Board for Scotland OHCS 11-Jul-2000
An employer has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid for his employees unnecessary risk of injury including psychiatric and not merely physical injury, but that duty does not extend to a duty to avoid an employee experiencing unpleasant emotions . .
CitedStevenson v East Dunbartonshire Council OHCS 29-Nov-2002
. .
CitedSalter v UB Frozen Chilled Foods OHCS 25-Jul-2003
The pursuer was involved in an accident at work, where his co-worker died. He suffered only psychiatric injury.
Held: Being directly involved, the pursuer was a primary victim, and accordingly not subject to the limits on claiming for . .
CitedMcRitchie v The Scottish Ministers ScSf 21-Jul-2004
. .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 20 February 2021; Ref: scu.90252