The Court of Appeal has now accepted that, where an employer’s negligence resulted in an employee suffering post traumatic stress disorder, leading to severe depression and to eventual suicide, that his widow may claim against the employer for damages arising from the act of suicide.

This overturns an earlier decision.

LJ Sedley ruled that the question was not whether the suicide was foreseeable at the time of the accident but whether the harm for which damages were sought was foreseeable. In this case, the harm was depression and suicide was not an uncommon consequence of severe depression.

Nor was there any public policy reason to regard the outcome as too remote for compensation.

The act of suicide was not beyond the law of negligence and, once liability was established for the injury that had caused the depression, the question was only whether the depression had driven the employee to take his own life.

Corr -v- IBC Vehicles Ltd , CA, 31ST March 2006

Working time regulations and stress cases

The working time regulations have been considered again in a stress case (see Hone -v- The Six Continents Retail Limited).

In that case the claimant was doing in excess of ninety hours per week. In this case the claimant was doing fifty two and a half hours per week.

It was held by Pill LJ that a breach of the regulations provides a “favourable background, from the claimant’s point of view, against which to assess whether there has been a breach of duty by the employer”.

However, he stated that the breach of the regulations does not in itself show a breach of the employer’s common law duty so it should not be thought that is a ground on which you can win a case alone.

The claimant lost her case in any event on the usual principles of Hatton -v- Sutherland.

Susan Pakenham-Walsh -v- Connell Residential & Anor (2006). CA (Civ Div) (Pill LJ, Keene LJ, Lloyds LJ) 21 January 2006