Claimant: Male: 45 years old at date of accident; 50 years old at date of settlement.
Employers' Liability; Occupational Disease: From 1997, the claimant (C) was employed by the defendant bank (D) as a database administrator. In September 2006, he was promoted to take on additional database administration responsibilities which increased his workload. C was responsible for rapid resolution of system complaints, errors and repairs. His usual duties involved prolonged and intense computer work. He usually worked at least nine hours per day and took work home with him. He was usually on call and he worked weekends, adding 30 hours per week to his normal working hours.
In 2000, C developed neck pain and sought physiotherapy. In 2001 he gave a note from his physiotherapist to D's health and safety officer recommending that his workstation be assessed. He was given a new chair with a neck rest, but his work station was not formally assessed. In 2006, D consulted C about proposals to restructure his duties. In September 2006, C wrote to D explaining that he had been suffering from depression and had been prescribed medication. At the end of September 2006, the proposed changes in C's job description were implemented. His workload and the pressure upon him substantially increased. In February 2007, his GP diagnosed depression and prescribed antidepressants. C immediately informed D. By early 2008, C had had to take on increased responsibilities. By late 2008, he was having difficulty writing and using his keyboard. His handwriting became poor and by February 2009 he had difficulty holding a pen because of cramp in his right arm and hand. He also experienced chest pain, headaches, anxiety, depression and insomnia. He had periods away from work because of his increasing symptoms and did not return to work after May 2009.
C sustained injury and brought an action against D alleging that it was negligent in (i) breaching the Management of Health and Safety Work Regulations 1999 reg.3 by failing to carry out any or any proper assessment of the risk of injury posed by C's workload and work pressure, particularly after his complaint in September 2006 and the restructuring; (ii) breaching reg.13 of the 1999 Regulations by failing to take into account his capabilities; (iii) breaching reg.6 of the 1999 Regulations by failing to carry out any or any adequate health surveillance of him; (iv) breaching the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 reg.2 in failing to carry out any or any suitable and sufficient analysis of his workstation; (v) negligently and/or contrary to reg.4 of the 1992 Regulations failing to facilitate periodical interruptions on the display screen equipment by breaks or changes of activities and reduce his workload at that equipment; (vi) failing to heed his complaint that the proposed restructuring in 2006 would impose undue workloads and pressures on him such that his health might be affected; (vii) requiring him to work excessive hours both within the office and at home.
Injuries: Although C's neck pain in 2000 appeared to clear up with physiotherapy, in 2008 it became severe and was accompanied by insomnia and headaches. He developed chronic compartment syndrome in his arms, particularly on his right side. His rheumatologist stated that his upper limb complaints were due to stress and overuse. A psychiatric expert indicated that C had no pre-accident psychiatric vulnerability before 2006, when he first developed symptoms of adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety as defined in DSM-IV under 309.28. On assessment in 2012 he had symptoms of pain disorder associated with both psychological factors and his general medical condition as defined in DSM-IV under 307.89. The symptoms of adjustment disorder and pain disorder were caused by work-related stress.
Effects: C underwent a decompression operation in respect of the chronic compartment syndrome. The psychiatric expert anticipated some improvement with 15 to 20 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants. C's pain management specialist and rheumatologist agreed with the psychiatrist's recommendations and advised that a return to work was unlikely in advance of successful treatment. C remained on medication and was receiving treatment from a pain management specialist. A return to work was also made difficult by lower back pain, unconnected to the claim. C remained employed by D but had not worked since May 2009. He remained on 75 per cent of his basic earnings through his health insurance.
Prognosis: Some of C's right arm symptoms had improved markedly since the operation but he still suffered from pain in his right forearm as some neuropathic symptoms remained. His neck pain had not deteriorated and his headaches had become less frequent. His rheumatologist advised that the extent to which he would be able to return to the same level of high-pressure work might be compromised.
Out of Court Settlement: £35,000 total damages.
The case was settled on a global basis with no particular breakdown of damages. However, the following breakdown was estimated by the claimant's solicitors:
Breakdown of General Damages: Pain, suffering and loss of amenity: £18,000.
Breakdown of Special Damages: Past loss of earnings: £16,500; Past medical expenses: £500.
Body Part: BRACHIUM - ARM - LIMB - UPPER LIMB - ARM, RIGHT - RIGHT ARM - ARMS - NECK - HAND - HANDS - HAND, RIGHT - RIGHT HAND
Condition: WORK-RELATED STRESS - PAIN DISORDER - ADJUSTMENT DISORDER
Stephen Glynn instructed by Russell-Cooke LLP for the claimant. Jason Cox instructed by Langleys Solicitors LLP for the defendant.
LTLPI 02/05/2013 (Unreported elsewhere)
PERSONAL INJURY - EMPLOYMENT