Stressed out

The Court of Appeal has made it harder for claimants to succeed in stress cases. It decided in Deadman -v- Bristol City Council that an employee with 30 years' service who developed depression after an allegation of sexual harassment was made against him, could not succeed.

Although the Court accepted that his employer had handled the investigation into the allegation badly, it said that:

• The obligation in the employer’s policy requiring them to handle complaints of harassment "sensitively" was not contractual.
• They could not have reasonably foreseen that Mr Deadman would suffer “this particular kind of harm” as a result of convening a panel of two, rather than three, as he was “of robust good health” and had an excellent attendance record.
• The council could not have known that an investigation might have been damaging to his health, given Mr Deadman’s demeanour and behaviour leading up to it and had not therefore been negligent to tell him of its decision "by leaving a bald letter on his desk". The content of the letter, not the way in which it was delivered, was more important.

Calls for increase in compensation for victims of asbestos cancer

Thompsons Solicitors has called on the government to increase the amount of compensation for bereavement to the families of asbestos cancer victims in England and Wales.

The firm is demanding equality for families affected by asbestos in its response to a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation on the Law on Damages.

The consultation is aimed at improving the system for dealing with claims for compensation for personal injuries and death.

The firm calls for the government to retain the current practice, which requires negligent employers and their insurers to pay compensation for bereavement. But Thompsons is calling for the fixed bereavement award of £10,000 in England and Wales to be increased in line with payments made in Scotland.

Thompsons launched its Justice for Asbestos Families campaign earlier this year highlighting an inequality in the way compensation for bereavement is awarded to families who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos.

In England and Wales the level of compensation is set at £10,000 by law and is only payable to the spouse but over the border in Scotland payments up to £30,000 have been made to bereaved widows.

Other family members in Scotland can also receive compensation of between £10,000 to £15,000 each.

Thompsons’ campaign has already been supported in parliament by a number of MPs.

In its response to the consultation paper Thompsons said that companies that have negligently caused a death must be made to “apologise” adequately and that the amount currently paid to bereaved relatives is out of date and is insulting to families.

The firm added that the level of bereavement damages is too low and the definition of relatives who can claim is far too narrow and should be opened up to include other family members.

Head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors, Ian McFall said: “This consultation gives the government another opportunity to look again at compensation for bereavement.

“We believe strongly that there is a powerful case for a change in the law to bring compensation for bereavement into line with the amounts currently paid in Scotland.”

View Thompsons’ response to the MoJ’s Law on Damages consultation here.

PI claims reform

The Summer 2007 issue of PILR reported that the government was consulting on reforming the personal injury claims process.

View Thompsons' response to the consultation here.