Stress-related illness not foreseeable
Harding v The Pub Estate Company Ltd, Court of Appeal, 11 May 2005
Harding, an experienced publican, was appointed as manager of a pub to improve its profitability prior to its sale. He worked long hours in difficult conditions. After almost 18 months in the post he suffered a heart attack. Harding claimed damages, alleging his personal injury was caused by the stress of the job. His claim was successful in the County Court.
The Court of Appeal overturned the decision on the grounds that there was no evidence that Harding’s employer should have been alerted to the risk to his health. He had no history of being especially vulnerable and, although he had visited his GP complaining of stress, none of his medical history was known to his employer. Nor was there any evidence that his GP was alert to the risk to Harding’s health. Harding had complained about the pub, but complaints about the pub were not, in themselves, complaints about impending danger to health. A breakdown in Harding’s health had not been reasonably foreseeable.
As the employer had not been given the kind of warning that required it to act, no breach of duty by the employer had been established.