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Rahman v Arearose Ltd [2001] QB 351

Employer’s liability; medical negligence; causation and apportionment of damages.

Facts

Mr Rahman was a manager of a fast food restaurant when he was violently assaulted at work. His employer, the first defendant, had negligently failed to take steps to protect him from the assault. His injuries required hospital treatment where he received negligent care from a surgeon, which left him blinded in his right eye. He went on to develop psychiatric disorders which the medical evidence attributed to both the assault, and to the loss of his sight. Mr Rahman sought compensatory damages in negligence.

Issues

Both defendants breached their duty of care towards Mr Rahman and both breaches had caused him to suffer injury. The first defendant argued they were only liable for the initial injuries sustained in the attack, and the psychiatric injuries were caused solely by the sub-standard medical treatment. They contended that as they were independent wrongdoers, the provisions of the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978, whereby damages are apportioned between the parties based on their responsibility for the same damage, did not apply. The second defendant argued that the psychological injuries were caused by both defendants and amounted to the same damage for the purposes of the 1978 Act.

Held

The 1978 Act did not apply because it only applies to cases where the torts occurred concurrently. The respective blameworthiness of the defendants was relevant to issues of causation and a pragmatic approach should be taken towards apportioning damages. The first defendant was solely liable for the initial attack and the loss of earnings therefrom. The second defendant was solely liable for the blindness. Both defendants were liable for the psychological harm and accordingly Mr Rahman was awarded one third of his damages from the first defendant and two thirds from the second.


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