Court of Appeal upholds claimant’s RSI claim

The claimant was a secretary for nine years with a firm of solicitors. From about 1989 she suffered intermittent pain in her wrists and it was from about then onwards that she slowly developed a build up of pain in her hands, mostly in the morning, and that caused some difficulty typing.

The pain moved up to her elbows and shoulders and eventually to her neck. She was right handed and symptoms were worse on the right side.

In early 1999 her workload had increased substantially. She consulted her GP who referred her to a rheumatologist who recommended physiotherapy which began in June 1999. This did not bring any relief and the symptoms did not resolve. She had not worked since July 1999.

The employers said that the injuries were not work related because the deterioration in 1998 was unconnected with any increase in workload and it followed that the symptoms that emerged in 1999 were likewise not work related. However the court held that there needed to be a temporal connection between the change in the workload in early 1999 and the severe symptoms of which she then complained.

The onset and nature of the symptoms were ultimately matters of fact, not of opinions of the doctors. On all the evidence the Judge had been entitled to conclude that the injuries were work related. The employers had failed to provide proper training and there had been a breach of Regulation 6 of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, and breaches of Regulations 2 and 4.

The workstation risk assessment carried out was inadequate and was regarded by the claimant as an unfortunate waste of time and a box ticking exercise. The employer’s appeal was dismissed.

Duty of care to prisoners


The Home Office appealed against a decision refusing to strike out a claim by a prisoner in respect of psychiatric harm allegedly suffered while on remand in prison. He had been referred to a psychiatrist and admitted to a mental health facility suffering from depression.


Eighteen months after his discharge, he arrived in prison on remand and spent the first six weeks in custody in the health centre. He was prescribed anti-depressants and tranquillisers and assessed as a person at risk of self-harm. He was transferred to a cell which he shared with another prisoner who was at risk of suicide.

After six weeks, the other prisoner killed himself. He claimed he suffered psychiatric harm because of the stress created by being placed in the same cell, and believed that he was blamed for the other prisoner’s death, and was then placed in a cell with another suicidal prisoner.

The Home Office said that it did not owe any duty of care to prevent psychiatric damage to him consequence upon the suicide of the other prisoner, and in any event the suicide of the other prisoner was not foreseeable.

The Court of Appeal held that the question was whether the duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of the prisoner included taking reasonable steps to protect a prisoner from psychiatric harm. The court held that the Judge had been right not to strike out the claim.