Common law set 9 Gough Square has won a House of Lords ruling enabling a widow to claim damages from her husband’s employer after a work accident led to his depression and suicide.
The Law Lords, led by Lord Bingham, held that commercial motor vehicle plant IBC Vehicles was liable for financial losses in relation to Thomas Corr’s suicide as events began with the manufacturer breaching a duty of care to the maintenance engineer.
The breach led to Corr having a serious accident that caused a severe depression, which ultimately ended in his committing?suicide?by jumping from the top of a multistorey car park.
IBC’s lead counsel Jeremy Cousins QC of Selborne Chambers argued that Corr’s suicide fell outside the duty of care owed by the plant as it was not reasonably foreseeable. He added that Corr’s action had been voluntary, and so amounted to contributory negligence.
Lord Bingham, however, said: “The law does not generally treat us as our brother’s keeper, responsible for what he may choose to do to his own disadvantage. It is his choice. But I do not think that the submission addresses the particular features of this case.”
The Law Lords held that Corr acted as he did because IBC’s breach led to his injury – pointing out that taking his own life did fall inside the scope of the plant’s duty to him.
Cousins, instructed by Moran & Co for IBC, led John Brennan of St Philips and Justin Kitson of Selborne Chambers. Rowley Ashworth instructed John Foy QC of 9 Gough Square, leading fellow set members Andrew Ritchie and Robert McAllister for Corr’s wife and estate.