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  • The writer attended at the Roundhall – http://www.roundhall.ie/   –  8th Annual Employment Law Conference on the 14th March 2011 where one of the Speakers, Tom Mallon BL, spoke on the subject of an Employer`s liability for Suicide. This sensitive subject was analysed by Mr Mallon who reviewed the law on Personal Injuries and Employment Law in a wide range of jurisdictions; also covering the issues of Causation and Remoteness. That is, can the action of the defendant employer be deemed to have been the cause of the damage giving rise to the Plaintiff`s injuries and can the defendant, if he did cause the damage, have foreseen the injuries likely to have arisen as a result of that damage?

    Case law was first analyzed where physical injury was caused and subsequently where suicide arose subsequent to psychological injury; ie, in the absence of physical injury. In the English case of Corr v IBC Vehicle Ltd [2008] 2 ALL ER 943 (the Corr case”), where the Plaintiff employee suffered serious head injury as a result of an accident at work, developing post traumatic stress disorder and depression and subsequently committing suicide, the defendant employer was held responsible in compensation for that suicide; it being deemed to be a foreseeable consequence of the defendant`s negligence in allowing that work accident to occur.

    In turn the Speaker Mr Mallon reviewed the Irish case of McGrath v Trintech Technologies Limited [2005] 4 IR 382 where Laffoy J applied the principles set out in the English cases of Walker v Northumberland County Council [1995] 1CR 702 and Barber v Summerset County Council [2004] 1 WLR 1089 ( see Articles on Occupational Stress Claims –  http://bit.ly/kuphcy  – written by the writer Brian Morgan of Morgan McManus ) in holding an employer responsible for physical and psychiatric injury where those injuries resulted from stress and pressures of his or her working conditions and workload.

    Quoting the case of Quigley v Complex Tooling & Moulding Ltd [2008] IESC 44, the Speaker  pointed out that where the personal injury is not of a physical kind it must amount to an identifiable psychiatric injury.

    Referring to the Corr case the speaker stated that the employer`s obligations are no different in respect of psychiatric injury than they are in respect of physical injury  and that, applying the principles of Corr where the court held that suicide could be a symptom of the damage caused, there seemed to be no reason in principle why an Irish Court, faced with similar facts, would not come to the same conclusion as the House of Lords did in Corr. Noting that overwork, work-induced stress and bullying undoubtedly can lead to physical and psychiatric injury, subject always to the consideration of the particular facts of an individual case, the Speaker concluded by stating that there is no reason that an employer will not be held liable for either death by overwork or suicide by overwork.

    In an economic climate where the pressure is now on employers to increase workload but with a diminishing workforce and where there has been an increase of suicide in Irish society this Presentation by Tom Mallon BL deserves attention and further consideration.