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House of Lords - Dunnachie Decision

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The House of Lords has - less than 15 minutes ago - handed down judgment in Dunnachie v Kinston upon Hull City Council, on whether damages for injury to feelings are recoverable in unfair dismissal claims.

Lord Steyn (with whom the other four judges agreed) held that damages for non-economic loss are not recoverable for unfair dismissal, and that s123 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 only allows tribunal to award financial losses.

This overrides the Court of Appeal's decision (see my bulletin 11/2/04) and upholds Burton P.'s decision in the EAT (see my bulletin 22/5/03).

This will end the battle between employee and employer representatives in small value cases who cannot agree whether (in principle) an award for injury to feelings should be made.

Surprisingly, the decision is very short - indeed, much shorter that Burton P.'s analysis in the EAT.. Lord Hoffman, whose comments in Johnson v Unisys gave rise to this whole debate, stays quiet. One suspects the House of Lords are a little embarrassed by the enormous amount of satellite litigation that has been triggered by their decision in Johnson v Unisys.

(Thanks to John Bowers QC, Counsel for the successful Appellant, for telling me the decision was due this morning)