We recently succeeded in establishing liability for an ambulance man who was sent to deal with an emergency, probably an unconscious drug addict in a derelict outbuilding down an alley in West Rhyl, a location where crime was rife. He asked for the police to be called but arrived at the scene first. While he was attempting to deal with the patient he was accosted and threatened by two other people, probably also drug takers, and as a result he suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder. He alleged that he should not have been sent alone to the incident but should have been ordered to stand off until the police arrived and a proper assessment of the risks involved undertaken. The defendants’ case was that he was the only person capable of taking the decision.

The case involved calling a large number of witnesses on both sides. In a very detailed analytical judgement, Judge Halbert accepted the claimant’s evidence that he had little alternative but to go in, that the defendant’s were negligent and that there was no contributory negligence on the part of the claimant.

While it is a PTSD case, the judgement is very relevant to anyone dealing with a claim against employers for an assault at work, as it analyses carefully the issues of employers’ knowledge of dangers and how they should then go about dealing with that situation.

Smith -v- Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust. Chester County Court, 22 March 2007.