Gibson v Jobcentre Plus [06.12.12]

Court of Appeal upholds decision in favour of Defendant; Claimant had the requisite knowledge to bring a claim for many years.

Implications

This is another example of a court refusing to exercise its discretion under s.33 Limitation Act 1980 in favour of a claimant. The Claimant had arguably only issued her claim five years outside the limitation period. However, despite this relatively short period the Court determined that the greater prejudice was to the Defendant.

Background

The Claimant alleged that she had sustained a repetitive strain injury (RSI) in the course of her employment with the Defendant. She claimed she began to suffer from symptoms in her upper limbs from December 2003 following a change in work tasks, and had been asymptomatic before that time. Her claim was brought in September 2006.

The Defendant placed reliance on a medical report by a GP from July 1998 which mentioned pains in her wrists and the possibility of RSI. Medical experts agreed that there was a substantive past history of neck, upper back and arm pain from 1998 onwards.

At first instance, His Honour Judge Mitchell dismissed her claim:

  • The Claimant had the requisite knowledge under s.11 Limitation Act 1980 to bring a claim before 2003.
  • He declined to exercise his discretion under s.33 on the basis that it would be prejudicial to the Defendant to have to investigate earlier allegations.
  • The Claimant had failed to prove her case as to whether there may have been any breach of duty.

Decision

The leading judgment in the Court of Appeal was given by Lord Justice Pill. He dismissed the Claimant’s appeal against the findings in relation to s.11 and breach of duty:

  • He agreed with the trial Judge in relation to s.11. There was overwhelming evidence of a persistence of similar symptoms affecting the neck, arms and wrists over many years. The submission that a separate condition emerged in 2003 could not be sustained. Although the trial Judge had not confronted the issue of whether there was a separate independent condition, he had sufficiently analysed the evidence.
  • The Judge was justified in finding that there was no breach of duty from 2003 onwards. On the basis of the finding on limitation, the issue of any earlier breaches was not relevant.