Q&As

Does a local authority owe a duty of care to an individual, who has identified themselves as suffering from stress and with whom they have a commercial relationship?

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Produced in partnership with David Sawtell of 39 Essex Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 05/08/2016

The following Local Government Q&A produced in partnership with David Sawtell of 39 Essex Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Does a local authority owe a duty of care to an individual, who has identified themselves as suffering from stress and with whom they have a commercial relationship?

Does a local authority owe a duty of care to an individual, who has identified themselves as suffering from stress and with whom they have a commercial relationship?

The question of liability for causing psychiatric illness is a wide topic. Each case will be heavily fact dependent. This Q&A will only set out the broad parameters of the question.

The fact that a claimant is in a contractual relationship or is a contractor of the party (such as a public authority) whose negligence may factually be causative of his psychiatric injury does not disapply the rules which apply specially into claims for compensation for adverse psychiatric effects. Claimants in stress cases have usually been the subject of a continuous causative process and are normally considered to be primary victims.

Most cases of occupational stress are concerned with an employer's liability to an employee. In this question, it appears that the individual is not employed by the public authority but is in a 'commercial' relationship. The difference is important as all employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees to see that reasonable care is taken to provide them with a safe place of work, safe tools and equipment, and a safe system of working: see Wilsons & Clyde Coal Co Ltd v English. The same assumption does not apply to contractors.

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