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Croft v Broadstairs & St Peter's Town Council, Court of Appeal, 23 April 2003

23 April 2003
The issues

Stress – foreseeability – psychiatric vulnerability

The facts

The Claimant was a former Town Clerk. She had a history of psychiatric injury illness. She had been in receipt of counselling. In November 1997 she was away from work. She had bronchitis. She was asked to come in to sign some accounts. She came in but said she would not sign because she needed time to consider them. At a sub committee meeting of the Town Council it was decided to give her a verbal warning which was sent to her under cover of a letter. The letter upset her and she became depressed.

The Town Council first decided to withdraw the letter but then in December confirmed it. The Claimant suffered a nervous breakdown. The Judge found for the Claimant on the basis that a former Mayor, part of the Town Council, knew through their relationship with a friend of the Claimant that the Claimant was psychiatrically vulnerable – in particular that she had been seeing a psychiatric nurse – and that therefore the Defendant had the necessary knowledge of the Claimant’s condition and had caused or materially contributed to the breakdown by its conduct. The Defendant argued that there was no evidence that the Defendant was aware of the Claimant’s condition and that the case was neither pleaded nor advanced on the basis of knowledge. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. As any other employer the Defendant was entitled to expect the Claimant to have the qualities of ordinary robustness.

2. In a person of ordinary robustness a nervous breakdown was not a foreseeable result of the circumstances.

3. The Claimant’s assertion that the former Mayor was aware that she had been receiving counselling was not enough to import knowledge on the behalf of the Defendant.

Appeal allowed.

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