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David Platt KC successful in overturning stress at work award in Yapp v Foreign Office

David Platt KC has been successful in overturning a substantial stress at work award before the Court of Appeal in Yapp v Foreign Office. In allowing the appeal in part, the Court of Appeal has given guidance on claims for psychiatric injury arising from breach of contract.

Mr. Yapp had been appointed to the post of High Commissioner in Belize by the Foreign Office. Ten months after commencing his post, the FCO received allegations in confidence that he had (i) sexually harassed women at social events and had behaved in a manner likely to damage the reputation of the United Kingdom; (ii) bullied and harassed staff members. The FCO withdrew Mr. Yapp from his role on the basis of the first allegation. That allegation was later found to be unsubstantiated. Mr. Yapp received a written warning in respect of the second allegation. He became depressed and remained unable to work for several years until his retirement. The judge concluded that the decision to withdraw Mr. Yapp amounted to a breach of contract and a breach of the FCO’s duty of care, and that those breaches had caused Y’s depressive illness.

The Court of Appeal overturned the finding that Mr. Yapp’s damages for psychiatric injury were recoverable. His illness was not foreseeable nor was the act of withdrawing him so egregious as to render it likely that he would suffer from such a psychiatric injury.  However the Foreign Office’s decision to withdraw him without interviewing him over the allegations remained unfair.

A link to the judgment can be found here.

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