Personal injuries – psychiatric damage
C, male, a deputy director of operations, aged 36 at the date of injury and 44 at trial, suffered severe agitated depression in September 1993 as a result of excessive workload and stress due to insensitive handling by his chief executive. Following psychiatric examination and treatment, including anti-depressants, C returned to work in January 1994 as a training and quality manager rather than to his original post. That was designed to be less stressful but, in September 1994, he developed a second major reactive depression as a result of further stress and harassment. He was described as being very ill and required a course of seven ECT treatments. In the first few months C had been helpless but his condition gradually improved. However, his condition was variable and, in late 1995, he had been unable to complete a benefit claim form. At trial, he continued to suffer from lack of concentration, raised irritability and impaired confidence. He had not resumed employment and his prognosis was described as uncertain. At trial, C was still taking anti depressant medication. The judge concluded that the employer was primarily liable but that C would, at some stage, have succumbed to the serious depression which befell him and held that that would have been six years after the onset of the second illness. Therefore, he awarded general damages and loss of earnings both limited to a six year period. General damages: £15,000. Award for loss of earnings: £82,554. Loss of pension: £6,000.
Cowley v Mersey Regional Ambulance Service NHS Trust, February 1 2001, Judge Douglas Brown, Liverpool County Court [Ex rel. Tim Hirst, Barrister, Part Court Chambers, 16 Park Place, Leeds].
“Current Law Week” 26th October 2001