UK: Landmark judgement for suicide victim

Editor’s note: This man, who committed suicide after a workplace accident, had ECT just three months before his suicide. According to an ect.org editor in the UK, the employer’s lawyers originally considered pursuing the hospital, but changed their minds.

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Corr v IBC – Court of Appeal Judgment.
Date:     19 Sep 2006
Text     Corr v IBC – Court of Appeal Judgment.

LANDMARK JUDGEMENT IN THE COURT OF APPEAL FOR SUICIDE VICTIM

The claimant was a Maintenance Engineer employed by IBC. He sustained injuries as a result of an accident at work on 22 June 1996. He was almost decapitated, in the event he sustained severe head injuries, underwent several operations including the reconstruction of his right ear, he suffered tinnitus, severe headaches, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe depression. His severe depression led to him committing suicide in May 2002. Following the suicide his employers, IBC Vehicles, alleged that there was no duty to protect against suicide and that in any event the suicide was not foreseeable. They also sought to blame the treating health trust although later discontinued their action in that regard. The case proceeded to the High Court in April 2005. The trial Judge found that an employer’s duty of care did not extend to the prevention of suicide and that the suicide was too remote. The Claimant’s widow was awarded approximately £85,500 and on our advice appealed to the Court of Appeal in December 2005 on the basis that the judgment was wrong and that the claimant’s widow should be entitled to claim for dependency representing an award for loss of her husband’s future income and pension. The claimant was represented by the TGWU who also funded the appeal. This case was of significant importance both to victims of suicide and for the law in general in that it was the first employers’ liability case heard in England since 1957 when under the old law; it was held that a defendant should only be liable for “foreseeable” damage. The Court of Appeal after hearing extensive arguments by both parties’ representatives overturned the High Court ruling by a majority decision. It held that the claimant’s suicide was symptomatic of depression and that as his “depression” was foreseeable that was sufficient. Further, given our unchallenged psychiatric evidence, namely that one in ten sufferers of severe depression go on to commit suicide, it was also held that the suicide was in any event foreseeable. The court increased the initial award to £633, 000 which is very satisfying given that Mr. Corr left a widow and two young children. This case demonstrates the real benefits of union membership which helped bring about a change in the law and justice for the victim and his family.

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