School Defeats Teaching Assistant’s Back Injury Claim

A school has succeeded in fighting off a £50,000 damages claim brought by a recently recruited teaching assistant who blamed chronic back and shoulder injuries on the strain of pushing wheelchair-dependent pupils between classes.

The woman had been working at the school for only about three weeks when she damaged her back whilst moving a disabled schoolgirl. Her lawyers argued that the incident was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ after successive days of strain. She was left with lasting damage to her back and shoulder so severe that she was unable to lift her right arm above shoulder height.

She argued that the school had failed to carry out a thorough risk assessment or provide comprehensive training in the task of pushing children in wheelchairs. It was submitted that the school should have done more to test the weight of disabled children – including the combined weight of child and wheelchair – and should have considered providing powered wheelchairs.

However, the woman’s claim was dismissed by a judge, who exonerated the school’s governors. In dismissing her challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal noted, “When all is said and done, the safe pushing of manual wheelchairs is not a difficult or complex matter.”

There was evidence that learning support assistants were given specific instructions on how to safely perform a number of manual tasks, including pushing wheelchairs, at the start of their employment. The school had taken all appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

Bank Derivatives Bosses Fail in £6.3 Million Bonus Claims

Following acrimonious litigation, in which accusations of dishonesty and bad faith were levelled on each side, two former bank employees have failed to convince the High Court that they were wrongly denied more than £6 million in bonuses.

The men’s basic annual salaries following their appointment as head and deputy head of the bank’s equity derivatives department were £120,000. However, they expected to receive vastly more than that in bonuses. The contractual, rather than discretionary, nature of those bonuses was one of the main attractions of the job.

Their time with the bank was marred by discord over the size of their bonuses, which culminated in their resignation. Between them, they claimed to be due £6.3 million in bonuses in respect of the final year of their employment. However, the bank denied that they had any such entitlement, although it agreed to make discretionary payments to the pair totalling £250,000.

In dismissing the men’s claims, the Court preferred the bank’s interpretation of their employment contracts. The formula agreed in respect of bonus calculations was ‘on any view elliptical’ and left a wide margin of discretion to the bank which had been exercised rationally and in good faith. The men’s arguments that the written terms of their contracts had been supplemented by oral agreement were rejected.

The Court had no doubts as to the honesty and integrity of the two men, who were described as ‘decent and highly talented individuals’. They had a strong sense of grievance against the bank and sincerely believed that they had not been paid their due. However, the Court observed, “I doubt that there are many outside the world in which they operate who would think that they were under-rewarded.”

NHS Not Responsible for Manager’s Mental Collapse

A senior NHS manager who claimed that she was bullied into a nervous breakdown by a cancer specialist with whom she had a principled disagreement over the use of public resources in private clinical studies has had her hopes of an £850,000 damages payout dashed by the High Court.

The woman claimed that she had been victimised by the consultant, who put her under ‘unbearable pressure’. She also argued that she had been grossly overworked and that her superiors had not done enough to support her. Following a series of mental crises, she had had to take medical retirement.

However, in dismissing her claim against her NHS employers, the Court found that, although the consultant could be forthright in expressing his views, nothing that he had done had amounted to bullying. Although the woman had toiled hard in her senior role, she had done so willingly and had not been overworked.

Her superiors had been unaware of her pre-existing bi-polar disorder and there had been no warning sign that should have put them on the alert that the stress of her job might trigger a mental collapse. Although it was ‘a sad case’ in which the woman had suffered substantial psychiatric injury, that was not foreseeable and her employers had not breached any duty of care which they owed her.