McPherson - v - London Borough of Camden

Claimant Patricia Ann McPherson
Job title Senior Administration Officer (SOC 2000: 4113)
Task description Drafting reports, inputting and accessing records and email
Injury De Quervain's Syndrome
Defendant(s) London Borough of Camden (SIC 2007: O84.11)
Court(s) Clerkenwell County
Case No. CK700080
Date 19 May 1999
Judge(s) His Honour Judge Anthony Thornton QC
For Claimant
All Claimants Patricia Ann McPherson
Solicitor Pattinson & Brewer (WC1N 3HA)
Counsel Mr Michael Nicholson
Non-Medical expert(s)
Medical expert(s) Dr Martin Seifert (Rheumatology)
For Defendant
Solicitor Watmores
Counsel Miss Erica Power
Non-Medical expert(s)
Medical expert(s) Dr Paul A Reilly (Rheumatology)
Judgment for: Claimant
Injury found: Yes
Work related: Yes
Breach of Statutory Duty: Yes
Defendant negligent: No finding
TOTAL: £ 98,194.00
References to and/or Interpretations of Regulations and HSE Guidance Documents
In this County Court Judgment on the 19th May 1999, the Court's interpretation of the requirements of regulations 2 & 4 of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations begs a number of questions. However, what is referred to in the Judgment as "a relatively small breach of statutory duty" resulted in total damages of just under £100,000 being awarded in this claim. There is also an implicit reference to regulation 1.

There are no references in the Judgment to the HSE's guidance on the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations or to any other guidance documents.


Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
 Regulation 1
 Regulation 2
 Regulation 4
LAWTEL Case report

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A personal injury claim arising from a form of repetitive strain injury alleged to have been caused by keyboard use at work succeeded, and the claimant was awarded damages of £98,194.

In an action before HH Judge Thornton QC, the claimant sought damages arising out of an injury to her left thumb. The issue at trial was whether, and to what extent, such injury arose from a form of Repetitive Strain Injury ('RSI') which had been caused by keyboard use and breaches of duty on the part of the defendant employer. The claimant, who was right-handed, was employed by the Housing Department of the defendant council from 1980 to 1994 although she had not started to undertake much typing or keyboard work until June 1993. She had begun to experience her first symptoms in late 1993 and was required to stop all keyboard use on 1 February 1994. The claimant was medically retired in 1994 when she was nearly 48 years old and alleged that this was due to a condition in her left thumb known as De Quervain's stenosing tenosynovitis ('De Quervain's'). She claimed that her injury had been caused by excessive and uninterrupted use of the left thumb whilst operating her keyboard at work. The claimant alleged that she should not, on the onset of De Quervain's, have been retired, but instead placed in a job which did not require her to use the keyboard for more than 10 per cent of the working day. As a result of the refusal of the defendant to do this, the claimant contended that she had been forced into medical retirement. The defendant argued that there was no causal link and that, if there was, then the claimant had failed to mitigate her loss by not taking better paid employment elsewhere.

HELD: (1) The claimant was a completely honest and reliable witness. (2) The defendant was bound to have regard to the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 which set out, particularly at reg.2(1) and reg.4, directions for the use of, and work at, workstations. (3) No assessment or workplan of any kind was undertaken by the defendant on setting up the workstation. Had one been carried out then the claimant would have been provided with a wrist rest and a flat keyboard, been seated in a correct posture, been required to take breaks from the keyboard of ten uninterrupted minutes in every hour and should not have used the keyboard for more than 50 per cent of the working day. (4) De Quervain's could be caused occupationally when there was a repeated movement of the wrist or the thumb. Keyboard use could, on occasion, cause the necessary inflammation and stenosis. The claimant had used her thumb excessively. There were other causes, however, and each case had to be considered on its own facts. (5) The claimant's De Quervain's had been caused by the continual use of the keyboard in the poor ergonomic and working-time conditions that prevailed from June 1993 to January 1994. (6) The claimant was entitled to claim for her losses of income and future income. She could not be criticised for accepting lower paid employment as she had attempted to find better paid work but had been rejected on medical grounds. The defendant had opted, without justification, to retire the claimant on medical grounds even though she could have gone on working in other areas. The defendant would therefore bear her future losses until her date of retirement.

Full Text of Judgment available on-line to Lawtel subscribers.

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De Quervain's Syndrome | DSE use: | SOC Major Group 4 | SIC Major Classification O

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Last updated: 11/11/2009