Clarity for illegality as stare decisis lives to fight another day: Henderson v Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 1841

This blog is written by Helen Waller, a pupil barrister at 12 King’s Bench Walk.

In Henderson v Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 1841 the Court of Appeal reviewed the jurisprudence on the defence of illegality in tort, having been invited to reconsider the present position in light of arguments based on the doctrine of precedent. The Court rejected these arguments and provided a clear statement of the operation of the defence.

The Factual Background

This was a tragic case with a set of facts presenting legal questions that would not look out of place in an undergraduate Law exam. The claimant, Ms Henderson, was a long-time sufferer of mental health conditions variously diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. At the relevant time in 2010 her condition had recently worsened and on 25 August of that year, whilst experiencing a serious psychotic episode, she stabbed her mother to death. Ms Henderson was, at that time, under the care of a mental health team managed and operated by the defendant Trust. An independent NHS investigation found failings by the Trust in Ms Henderson’s care and treatment. However, it also found that, “while the killing of Ms Henderson’s mother could not have been predicted, a serious untoward incident of some kind was foreseeable based upon Ms Henderson’s previous behaviour when experiencing a psychotic episode” (at [4] of the judgment). Continue reading “Clarity for illegality as stare decisis lives to fight another day: Henderson v Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 1841”