James v Woodall Duckham Construction Co Ltd [1969] 1 WLR 903



The claimant fell from a ladder during the course of his employment with the defendant construction company. He suffered minor injuries but after three months was considered fit for work by the hospital which treated him. However, he complained of severe physical pain all over his body which he alleged made it impossible for him to work, despite medical evidence that there was no physical cause for any pain. He also suffered from anxiety and neurosis as a result of his claim for compensation, which caused him to believe that his pain would not subside until this claim had been resolved in court. However, by the time he brought a legal action against the defendants, he had already missed over six years of work.


The issue was whether the claimant could recover damages in respect of the period of delay between being declared fit for work and bringing a legal action, in which he had been unable to work as a result of his pain and compensation neurosis, yet had taken any steps to institute proceedings.


The court held that where a plaintiff understands that the pain which is preventing him from returning to work is a result of compensation neurosis, and that this will disappear when the claim for compensation has been disposed of, he is under an obligation to proceed as expeditiously as possible to resolve the claim. As such, the claimant was not entitled to recover damages in respect of the period of delay in bringing the legal action against his employers.