Hosegood v Khalid (t/a Salt & Pepper Village) Case lSC0052

Subjects: Disability Discrimination in the Provision of Services – Aggravated Damages

This is a case in the Scunthorpe County Court. It is a simple case about the provision of an access ramp to a restaurant.

Facts

C was a wheelchair user. He also had spondylosis and stomach cancer. He was unable to work and his condition meant that he did not go out often although he strove to be as independent as possible. When he did go out he had to plan things carefully in advance with his wife. C and his wife decided to go D's restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. It was the first time they had been out in a year. They were assured that there was wheelchair access to the restaurant. When they arrived at the restaurant they found that there was a step up into the restaurant. D's manager insisted on wheeling C up the steps. C found this humiliating. He tried to be as independent as possible, his chair was designed without handles and he normally only let his wife touch it. C was very upset and did not stay to eat. C's wife helped him to leave. After the incident C wrote several letters to D primarily to try and ensure that there was a ramp available in future. D made one call, in which it accepted that the service was unacceptable but did not call again but denied C the opportunity of meeting to discuss the problem. The EHRC wrote to D on C's behalf. D's response was to deny that C had every visited the restaurant and C issued a claim in the County Court. D filed a defence denying the incident had taken place, saying that the claim was baseless and that the Claimant was a racist and a conman! C also filed a counterclaim for damages for stress and reputational damage which was struck out for a failure to file the appropriate fee. D also failed to comply with directions to file an allocation questionnaire and so his defence was struck out. The matter was listed for an assessment of damages.

Held

Deputy District Judge Whybrow held that C's response to D's breach of duty was sincere and deep-felt. He found it undignified to be required, under protest, to accept the help of restaurant staff to negotiate the step into the restaurant. DDJ Whybrow considered the JSB guidelines on personal injury and the category for “minor” cases of psychiatric damage and also the guidelines set down by the Court of Appeal in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police and made an award of £3,000.

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, DDJ Whybrow also made an award for aggravated damages because D had behaved in an insulting and abusive way towards C and its conduct exacerbated the original wrongdoing. As a result he made a further award of £500.

Comment

This is a helpful reminder of the level of damages that might be awarded against a service provider following a one-off incident of discrimination. It demonstrates clearly that service providers need to be very careful about the assumptions that they make about how a disabled person might be affected by a particular situation and that they need to listen carefully to the individual concerns of disabled people using their services. D's response in this case was flawed from the outset since it did not listen to C's wishes or concerns. Awards of aggravated damages are rare but were clearly justified in this case.