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Pursuing an injury claim and settlement agreements

When can an employee continue to pursue a personal injury claim after entering into a Settlement Agreement?

In the recent case of Farnham-Oliver v RM Educational Resources Ltd [2021] EWHC 2418 (QB) the High Court has decided that a Claimant is able to continue with a Personal Injury claim in spite of having settled Employment Tribunal claims with the employer.

What were the terms of the Settlement Agreement?

The Settlement Agreement settled the Employment Tribunal claim but excluded the Claimant’s personal injury claim for work-related stress. When the Claimant issued a personal injury claim, some years later, the employer applied for the claim to be struck out on the basis that it would be an abuse of process/duplicative claim. Claimants are prevented from repeatedly litigating the same issues (Res Judicata).

The High Court rejected the application for the claim to be struck out, applying ordinary contractual principles that the exclusion had the effect of allowing the Claimant to continue with the personal injury claim.

What are the implications of this decision?

This case is a reminder that if an employer wishes to avoid the threat of future claims for personal injury – arising from the same facts as an Employment Tribunal claim – then this should be expressly excluded. Any doubt would probably be interpreted in favour of the employee, as it will normally be the employer who drafts a settlement agreement

This case is also a helpful reminder that a settlement of Employment Tribunal proceedings will probably not prevent bringing future claims based on the same facts given that a court has not heard the evidence at any stage. Whilst this may seem unfair, given that an employee could potentially gain a windfall, it highlights the limitations of ‘res judicata’ and the need for parties to make their intentions clear in a settlement agreement.

How can Cartwright King help with any employment issues?

Cartwright King’s Employment Law specialist support fairness and best practice in the workplace. They provide impartial and practical advice that aims to resolve any disagreements quickly, whilst preventing drawn-out or potentially negative disputes. We advise both employees and employers in respect of Settlement Agreements.

For specialist advice in any of our areas of law, please call us or please email your enquiry using the contact form.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.