A municipal gardener who was awarded over £35,000 damages against his local authority employers after his 40-year career was destroyed by work stress has been granted the right to seek a bigger pay-out by the Court of Appeal.
Thomas Brown, aged 62, joined the London Borough of Richmond’s gardening workforce in 1965 and spent the whole of his working life in post, rising to become operations manager of the council’s parks and open spaces department.
But, after struggling to cope with staffing cuts - even foregoing his holiday entitlement to keep up with his work - he suffered a mental breakdown in June 2003 which ended his career and which a county court judge found had been caused by the council's negligence. The judge said that the council should have foreseen the risk of Mr Brown's workload causing him psychiatric harm and could have done more to help him.
He was awarded £35,615 damages, but his lawyers argued that that was not enough to reflect his lost earnings and the effective termination of his working life. The Court of Appeal upheld his challenge and ordered a re-hearing of the lost earnings issue at the county court.
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Treacy and Lord Justice Davis, were critical of ‘shortcomings’ in the county court judge's ruling and directed him to reconsider issues relating to Mr Brown's loss of future earnings.