If an Employment Tribunal (ET) is called upon to assess general damages for personal injury, this is a matter of fact to be determined based on the individual evidence. The award is not liable to a successful appeal unless it can be shown that the ET has made an error of principle or has arrived at a figure that is manifestly too high or too low so as to be capable of being treated as perverse.
In Hampshire County Council v Wyatt, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET had made no error of law in making the personal injury award it had to a dyslexic carer who won claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination after she was dismissed whilst absent from work with stress brought on by the manner of her suspension following allegations about her working methods. The award was made in the absence of expert medical evidence in support of the woman's disability claim.
Hampshire County Council had challenged the award as being excessive in circumstances where no expert medical evidence had been presented.
The EAT dismissed the Council's arguments. In its view, the ET was entitled to characterise the claimant's psychiatric injury as being moderately severe for the purposes of assessing the starting point for the personal injury award. Furthermore, whilst it may be advisable for claimants to obtain medical evidence in support of their claim, especially in cases involving psychiatric injury, and a failure to do so is to risk a lower award than might otherwise have been made, there is no principle of law that an ET cannot award compensation for personal injury in the absence of such evidence. The same is true of pecuniary loss awards in unfair dismissal claims.
In this case, there was ample evidence to support the ET's findings in the occupational health reports and in the woman's statements and those of her witnesses.