Walker v Sita Information Network Computing UKEAT/0097/12/KN

C suffered from functional overlay compounded by obesity. C suffered from asthma, dyslexia, chronic
fatigue syndrome, and a number of other significant health problems. Because medical experts could not
identify a physical or mental cause for his symptoms the ET held that C was not disabled.


C had what was described as a constellation of health problems. As a result he suffered from a number of
significant symptoms including pains in the head, knee, abdomen, lower back, left shoulder, left arm, left
leg, both feet and in the anal area. He also suffered from a number of other symptoms including constant
fatigue, poor concentration and memory loss. An occupational physician said that C suffered from a
permanent chronic condition which affected his day to day living. He was unable to identify any cause for
C's symptoms. C weighed 21 ‘/2 stone. The view of Dr Davis, another occupational health specialist was that
anyone who was that overweight was likely to suffer from breathlessness and have generalized pain. The
ET held that C was not disabled.


The EAT allowed the appeal. Langstaff P was referred to the cases of McNicol v Balfour Beatty Rail
Maintenance and Rugamer v Sony Music Entertainment, both reported at [2002] ICR 381 and also College of
Ripon & York St John v Hobbs [2002] IRLR 185. Langstaff P held that the ET in this case had taken the wrong
approach. An ET should identify whether an individual has a physical or mental impairment. In this case C
clearly had both. The ET had wrongly thought that it was necessary to establish that the physical or mental
impairment was caused by something physical or mental. The relevance of what caused the impairment is
evidential not legal — where there is no recognized cause an ET may be more likely to conclude that the
claimant's account of his symptoms is not genuine. In this case the ET had accepted that C's symptoms
were genuine.


This is an interesting case concerning the nature of ”impairment”. The significant issue in McNicol and
Rugamer was whether ”impairment” referred to the cause of the disability or its effects. The EAT in the
College of Ripon case and the Court of Appeal in McNicol emphasized the importance of applying the words
of the statute and came down on the side of focusing on the effect of the impairment rather than the cause.
Langstaff P's judgment confirms this and is a helpful reminder of the need to take a common sense
approach in cases where the cause of the impairment is unclear.

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