(1) The claim for the initial illness was bound to fail at the first hurdle of foreseeability. The claimant had spent ten years of his managerial career in charge of large retail outlets and there was no history of psychiatric problems or anything which indicated he was particularly susceptible to psychiatric illness. A regional manager called by the defendant had never been aware of another store manager manager experiencing stress related to work and there was nothing in general about the role that would indicated such a risk.
(2) The court did not accept the claimant’s account of a crucial meeting and found that whilst the regional manager had failed to accord with the planned phased return to work that was not sufficient to amount to a breach of duty and the regional manager had acted reasonably and the claimant’s own account was that he was ready to return to work.
(3) The completion of a risk assessment was immaterial as it would have made no difference to the outcome as no risk of psychiatric injury would have been uncovered.
The court can take into account objective factors secondary to factors relating to the claimants themselves. In this case, the regional manager’s experience of no other employees in the same role experiencing stress at work was relevant to foreseeability.
The judge also commented that he was unimpressed by the submission that the evidence of witnesses called by the defendant should be given less regard simply because of their continued employment with the company - claimants will need to put this contention to defendants in cross examination as it will not be sufficient in and of itself to discredit a witness.
Joseph Carr & Louise Taylor, Anthony Gold