Employers could be held liable for the suicides of ex-employees after a landmark ruling by the House of Lords.
Law Lords unanimously ruled that the widow of a man who killed himself six years after a workplace accident should be compensated by his former employers IBC Vehicles. The decision upheld a previous judgment in 2006 that the company was responsible for the death of Thomas Corr.
In 1996, Corr was hit on the head by a metal panel as a result of defective machinery. He later suffered from depression, headaches and mood swings. He committed suicide by jumping from a multi-storey car park in May 2002.
In the original case, car manufacturer IBC Vehicles admitted liability for the workplace accident, but denied that it was responsible for the suicide. A deputy judge in the High Court awarded his widow £82,520 after finding IBC could not be held responsible for Corr taking his own life.
Corr’s widow then appealed that decision and the Court of Appeal found IBC Vehicles was responsible his suicide. IBC subsequently appealed to the House of Lords which confirmed that the company was liable.
Lord Bingham said: “In the present case Mr Corr’s suicide was not a voluntary, informed decision taken by him as an adult of sound mind, making and giving effect to a personal decision about his future. It was the response of a man suffering from a severe depressive illness that impaired his capacity to make reasoned and informed judgements about his future, such illness being, as is accepted, a consequence of the employer’s [actions].”