£100,000 payment after work stress suicide

Posted: 13th September 2012

The children of a council executive alleged to have killed himself due to intolerable work stress have won a £100,000 settlement of their claim against his employers.

The man was aged in his 40s when he stabbed himself at his home with a kitchen knife while his two young daughters were upstairs in the bath. He had earlier complained to his general practitioner (GP) that he was ‘obsessed by work as he must provide for his family’.

Hours before his suicide in 2007, he had told the GP that his department had been reduced to just himself and one other employee who was then on sick leave, suffering from depression.

Performing a demanding role in the local authority chief executive's office, his family's lawyers said he had become ‘paranoid’ about keeping his job. His superiors were accused of failing to provide proper back-up during workforce restructuring and he was claimed to have endured such ‘extreme stress’ before his death that it made him physically sick.

The deceased’s family claimed damages from the London borough that employed him, alleging negligence in failing to heed his complaints and imposing an ‘excessive and unreasonable workload’.

The case reached the High Court as Mrs Justice Lang approved a settlement whereby the deceased’s daughters, who were both aged under 10 when their father took his own life, will each receive £50,000.

After outlining the ‘tragic and unfortunate’ facts of the case, the family's counsel, Robert Glancy QC, said that the man's wife, aged in her 40s, had previously settled her case against the local authority on private terms.

Mr Glancy said that the case had been ‘strenuously contested both in respect of liability and damages’ by the local authority and the settlement had been reached without any admission of responsibility for the man’s death.