Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital – Parliamentary Intention and Damages Caused by Maladministration of a Contractual Dismissal Procedure

Publication Date01 Jan 2013
AuthorKevin Costello
Edwards vChesterfield Royal Hospital – Parliamentary
Intention and Damages Caused by Maladministration of
a Contractual Dismissal Procedure
Kevin Costello*
In Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS FoundationTrust [2011] UKSC 58 [2012] 2 W.L.R.
55 the Supreme Court addressed the following question:is an employee,who can establish that (a)
if a contractual disciplinary process had been correctly administered he would have been exon-
erated, and (b) thereafter employed until retirement, able to sue for loss of the earnings that he
would have acquired until retirement? Three members of the Supreme Court held that such a
remedy was not reconcilable with the enactment,orig inally in the Industrial Relations Act 1971,
of a statutory unfair dismissals protection regime. It was Parliament’s intention that an employee
should not be able to outmanoeuvre the statute’s compensation limitation rules by deploying a
superior common law remedy.This note considers that reading of Parliament’s intention.
The plaintiff in Edwards vChesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust1
(Edwards) was a surgeon whose career was ruined following an accusation that he
had conducted an improper examination of a patient. Although Mr Edwards’
contract of employment established a disciplinary procedure for processing alle-
gations of professional misconduct, that procedure was defectively operated (the
panel which was convened did not include a lawyer or a doctor with the same
clinical expertise as Mr Edwards).Mr Edwards was dismissed. It emerged that had
the procedure had been properly observed Mr Edwards might have been reha-
bilitated: when the same complaint was laid before the General Medical Council,
its Investigation Committee quickly dismissed the charge. Edwards, in other
words,was one of those cases in which a plaintiff alleges that a failure to properly
comply with a disciplinary process has affected the outcome, and resulted in a
miscarriage of justice.
The question addressed by the Supreme Court has been in circulation since
1944: is an employee,who can establish that a contractual disciplinary process has
been unfairly administered, able to sue for the earnings that he would have
acquired if he had been exonerated and retained in employment?2On one view,
this is a straightforward application of the classical rule that damages are assessed
*School of Law, University College Dublin.
1 [2011] UKSC 58; [2012] 2WLR 55. The appeal in the Edwards case was combined with a similar
case, Botham vMinistry of Defence which raised similar issues. This note is concerned with the
Edwards case alone.
2Tomlinson vThe London,Midland & Scottish Ry Co [1944] 1 All ER 537 (Tomlinson).
© 2013The Author.The Modern Law Review © 2013The Moder n LawReview Limited. (2013) 76(1) MLR 134–157
Published by BlackwellPublishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX42DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden,MA 02148, USA

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