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Stress-related personal injury was reasonably foreseeable

Stress-related personal injury was reasonably foreseeable

In Dickens v O2 plc the Court of Appeal held that O2 was liable for stress induced personal injury suffered by one of its employees. The injury was reasonably foreseeable. The employee had previously complained about the stress of her job. In the circumstances, O2 had been negligent as it should have sent Mrs Dickens home pending urgent medical investigation.

Ms Dickins was promoted to an audit role and was promised training by an accountant who then left, leaving Ms Dickins to do the February 2002 audit alone. She worked long hours and reached “the end of her tether”. Ms Dickins had difficulty getting up and was regularly late for work. She told her manager that she was “stressed out” and he suggested she should use O2’s counselling service.

In May 2002 Ms Dickins repeated her description of her symptoms, confirmed that she was having counselling and but was concerned that her health was deteriorating. A referral to occupational health was suggested but not actioned. Shortly after she went sick with anxiety and depression and never returned.

The Court of Appeal held that O2 was liable for stress induced personal injury. The injury was reasonably foreseeable. The employee had previously complained about the stress of her job, had been coming into work late regularly and had told her line manager that she did not know how long she could keep going. O2 had been negligent as it should have sent Mrs Dickens home pending urgent medical investigation. The fact that confidential counselling was made available was not an adequate response where an employee was complaining of severe stress.

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