Introduction

Our client brought a claim against the Defendant local authority seeking damages for their failure to take reasonable steps to protect him during his childhood. 

Mr F's family had been brought to the attention of the Social Services Department in about 1990 when he was aged 5.  Despite various concerns from 1990 until 1999 about the mental health of our client's mother and the physical and emotional safety of our client, the Defendant's Social Services Department failed to intervene.

Mr F consulted Russell-Cooke in 2005 aged 20 and we obtained Public Funding to bring a claim against the Defendant for the psychiatric injuries he had suffered as a result of being abused by his mother. 

Facts

There were many 'trigger events' which should have precipitated investigation and action by the Defendant between 1990 and 1999 which included allegations of domestic violence, parental conflict, serious assault and our client's disclosure to his teachers of physical abuse and threats by his mother to harm him.  The matter was bought to the attention of the Social Services Department by the police, the education officer, our client's school and his health visitor. 

In 1997 Mr F reported the abuse at school and they passed the information on to the Social Services.  When the Social Worker contacted the mother she openly threatened to assault her and also threatened to attack her neighbor.  During the course of that year she told the Social Services on more than one occasion that she was going to harm our client.  They took no action to remove our client from his mother's care.

Our client eventually left his mother of his own volition in 1999 at age 13 to live with his father. 

The Legal Case

In most personal injury claims legal proceedings must be issued at court within three years of the date of the incident complained of, or in the case of a child, before they reach their 21st birthday.

Our client initially instructed Russell-Cooke aged 20 and as the case had not settled before he attained the age of 21 we had to issue proceedings against the Defendant at the High Court in March 2007, just before his 21st birthday.

Breach of duty: Our client's case was that the Defendant was, or ought to have been aware of his home situation from at least 1990 when he was aged 5 and that it owed him a duty to intervene and protect him but failed to do so. 

He alleged that he ought to have been removed from the care of his mother at whose hands he alleged he suffered significant harm. He claimed that the Defendant ought to have instituted care proceedings from October 1990.

Defence:  The Defendant admitted primary liability in that it breached its duty to our client by not investigating or acting upon the 'trigger events' that he described, however they claimed that even if they had investigated then they would not have found any of the events serious enough to warrant removing our client from his mother's care until the events that occurred in 1997.

They claimed that our client was only entitled to damages for the injuries that he suffered which arose out of being left in the care of his mother from 1997 to 1999.  They argued that our client was pre-disposed to psychiatric illness and that his mental health would have been impaired in any event.

The Medical Evidence

Our client suffered serious emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother until the age of 13.  As a result of the abuse he suffered from a serious personality disorder which included depression, self harm, suicide attempts and psychotic symptoms. 

Our client was assessed by a psychiatrist who stated that our client was unlikely to ever fully recover and that he would continue to pose a risk to himself and others.  He recommended that he receive counselling treatment in an attempt to lessen his symptoms.

Damages

Mr F's case was settled out of Court for £42,500 which can be roughly broken down as follows:

For psychiatric injury -  £40,000

For medical treatment -  £2,500

Total Damages -  £42,500

Settlement date: January 2008

Age at Settlement: 21 years