The Court of Session has ruled that a primary school teacher can proceed with a personal injury claim against West Lothian Council, her former employer, despite the Council’s arguing that she was personally barred from pursuing the claim due to a compromise agreement in settlement of an employment tribunal claim that she had previously brought against the council.
The teacher, Jennifer Troup, wished to raise a personal injury action against the Council for a psychiatric injury. She claims that she suffered from depression and anxiety as a result of the Council’s failure to take reasonable care for her mental health despite knowing that she was at risk of psychiatric injury due to work-related stress.
Ms Troup had previously raised an employment tribunal action against the Council in relation to the same issue. This action was brought under the Equality Act 2010, and Ms Troup averred that she had suffered discrimination by reason of her disability, that the Council had failed to make reasonable adjustments, and that she suffered harassment as a result. This claim was settled by way of a compromise agreement, in which the parties agreed that the Council would pay Ms Troup a sum of money without admission of liability. The agreement contained a clause stating that this sum of money was to be in full and final settlement of any claims that Ms Troup had against the council in relation to her employment with them or its termination, including claims under contract law, the Equality Act 2010, the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and the Employment Rights Act 1996, as well as other work-related regulations.
The compromise agreement did contain a further clause, though which stated that “any claim related to accrued pension rights and any claim for damages for personal injury which may be brought within the ordinary civil courts of Scotland arising from circumstances occurring prior to [the termination date of Ms Troup’s employment with the council]” was excluded from the aforementioned clause.
The Council sought to argue that Ms Troup’s personal injury claim should still be dismissed as she was personally barred from bringing a further action for the same injury as a result of the first clause, and that the second clause should be interpreted narrowly and be seen to refer only to claims in relation to other injuries sustained during her employment, such as “a fall from height, an assault by a co-worker and slips and trips”. The court’s view, however, was that the second clause meant that Ms Troup could bring a personal injury claim in relation to her psychiatric injury, and that the wording of the second clause could not be said to be ambiguous. Ms Troup will therefore be allowed to proceed with her claim for psychiatric injury.
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