Piepenbrock v The London School of Economics And Political Science, Court of Appeal - Queen's Bench Division, October 05, 2018, [2018] EWHC 2572 (QB)

Resolution Date:October 05, 2018
Issuing Organization:Queen's Bench Division
Actores:Piepenbrock v The London School of Economics And Political Science
 
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Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 2572 (QB)

Case No: TLQ17/0577

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 05/10/2018

Before:

THE HON. MRS JUSTICE NICOLA DAVIES DBE

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Between:

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Andrew Hogarth QC and Andrew Buchan (instructed by Anthony Gold Solicitors) for the Claimant

Andrew Warnock QC and Laura Johnson (instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 16-17, 20, 23-27, 30-31 July 2018

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Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

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THE HON. MRS JUSTICE NICOLA DAVIES DBE

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE:

Introduction

  1. The claimant brings this claim for damages for psychiatric injury arising from his employment as a Teaching Fellow at the defendant's Department of Management between September 2011 and September 2014. The claimant was appointed as an LSE Fellow to run the ``capstone'' course, strategy, organisation and innovation in the department's postgraduate programme the Master's in Management (MiM). On 1 September 2012 he was appointed to the role of Deputy Academic Dean in the new Executive Global Master's in Management (GMiM) programme. At all relevant times Miss D was employed by the defendant as the claimant's graduate teaching assistant (GTA), a post she held from September to 30 November 2012.

  2. The claim is based upon three causes of action:

    i) The defendant's vicarious liability for the actions of Miss D who harassed the claimant within the meaning of that term in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (the 1997 Act), by making numerous false and malicious allegations against the claimant to staff and students at the London School of Economics (LSE) and to bodies associated with the claimant;

    ii) The defendant's Harassment Policy was incorporated into the claimant's contract, the defendant failed to follow the contractual procedure;

    iii) The defendant's handling of Miss D's complaint was negligent.

    The claimant's case

  3. Miss D was originally one of the students on the MiM course taught by the claimant. Following the successful completion of the course she was employed by the defendant as the claimant's GTA. It is now apparent that she had become infatuated with the claimant. This was observed by other staff including Professor Saul Estrin, the co-head of the department, who referred to her as showing ``dog-like devotion''. In November 2012 Miss D accompanied the claimant on a trip to Boston and Seattle where he was to give lectures and attend LSE alumni events. In Boston she made an overt sexual advance, greeting the claimant in a state of partial undress when she opened her hotel door. He rejected her advance. In Boston and Seattle the claimant tried and failed to restore a professional relationship. As a result he told Miss D that she would have to cease working for him.

  4. Following the trip Miss D, who is American, remained in the United States, the claimant returned to the LSE. Thereafter Miss D made a series of malicious and untruthful complaints to the LSE, she circulated allegations of the claimant's alleged sexual impropriety to members of the faculty, an unknown number of the claimant's former students, Duke University and The Economist. On 11 December 2012 Miss D instigated a formal complaint procedure against the claimant of which he was informed by the defendant on 12 December 2012. By midnight on 12 December the claimant felt unable to continue to teach, he became ill and was seen by his general practitioner on 18 December 2012 who diagnosed an acute stress reaction. The claimant never returned to work at the LSE. The LSE found Miss D's claim not proven, a process in which the claimant had not taken part by reason of his ill-health. It is the claimant's case that the defendant is vicariously liable for the actions of Miss D. The defendant is also in breach of contract and in breach of its duty to take reasonable care of the claimant in its handling of Miss D's complaint. As a result the claimant suffered a severe depressive episode, which renders him vulnerable to further episodes of depression.

    The defendant's case

  5. The defendant denies that it is vicariously liable for the actions of Miss D, it denies the allegations of negligence and breach of contract and contends that its handling of the complaint against the claimant was reasonable in the circumstances as they prevailed. It denies that the injuries sustained by the claimant were foreseeable and in any event he suffered an adjustment disorder not a depressive illness.

    The evidence

    The claimant

  6. The claimant, aged 52, is married to Professor Sophie Marnette-Piepenbrock, they have a 15-year-old son. He is a citizen of the Netherlands and the United States and has worked in the UK for more than 20 years. Following a successful career as an architectural/structural engineer he switched careers to become a business school academic, obtaining his MBA, MSc and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In his doctorate ``Towards a theory of the evolution of business ecosystems'' the claimant sought to explain the rise and fall of business leaders, their organisations, the industries in which they operate, and the national economies in which they are embedded.

  7. When working on his PhD the claimant established a ``global network'' of academics and business executives who shared and supported the ideas he was advancing in his PhD research, the International Institute for Strategic Leadership (IISL). Following completion of his doctorate in July 2009 the claimant was offered a one-year post-doctoral associate position at MIT by one of his supervisors, Professor Charles Fine. The claimant states that unknown to him Professor Fine gave lectures and interviews in which he presented the claimant's PhD research as his own. A plagiarised article appeared in the academic journal MIT Sloan Management Review and in the business journal Forbes in early 2010. The claimant was shocked, he confronted Professor Fine who allegedly retaliated by cancelling the PhD course which the claimant was scheduled to teach. It is the claimant's case that he was forced to defend himself and his work in the first half of 2010, as a result he suffered a depressive episode. The claimant states that his depressive episode ended when apologies and admissions of guilt were publicly issued by MIT with corrections made in the journals.

  8. On 1 July 2011 the claimant applied to the LSE's Department of Management (DoM) for an appointment as a Fellow in the area of general management. He was interviewed by the DoM co-heads, Professor Estrin and Professor Bevan. The conversation turned to his lack of academic publications. The claimant explained that he had been hired at MIT as a post-doctoral Fellow to teach a PhD course, his PhD dissertation supervisor/line manager plagiarised his doctoral research and expropriated his ideas. When the claimant objected to the unethical behaviour Professor Fine cancelled his teaching at MIT. He said that Professor Fine's behaviour had caused a depressive illness which prevented him from working/writing for the remainder of his contract. The claimant was pleasantly surprised that neither Professors Estrin nor Bevan appeared to be concerned about the disclosure of his previous mental health problems nor his lack of publishing. Prior to joining LSE he was not required to attend a medical nor did he recall having to provide anything further about his medical history.

  9. On 3 August 2011 Professor Estrin offered the claimant the position of LSE Fellow. Between January and March 2012 the claimant taught over 100 students. His teaching was generally well received by students and faculty colleagues, he achieved very high assessment marks, his students performed exceptionally well, he was awarded an LSE teaching prize.

  10. A student in the LSE's two-year Master's in Management (MiM) programme from 2010 to 2012 was Miss D. The claimant taught her in the capstone course, she was intelligent, hard-working and graduated from the MiM programme with a distinction. Following the capstone course the claimant supervised approximately 30 MiM dissertations. In the summer of 2012 Miss D asked the claimant to supervise her master's dissertation as she was interested in contributing to and advancing his ``evolution of business ecosystems'' (EBE) research agenda. He refused as he had too many students to supervise. Miss D persisted and did a piece of unsupervised research which was impressive. As a result the claimant agreed to be her supervisor.

  11. Miss D subsequently changed her topic twice, she asked to meet the claimant many times. He began to suspect she was using it as an excuse to be with him, he noticed a subtle change in her behaviour towards him. Miss D had always been complimentary about his work but he felt her attention had moved to a more personal level. As a result he spoke to his wife. The claimant then told Miss D that he could no longer supervise her dissertation, he would find another faculty member to do so. She broke down in tears, she explained this was at the thought of losing the opportunity to work with him. She told the claimant personal details relating to her father. He attempted and failed to find a replacement so agreed to remain her supervisor. Miss D completed her dissertation. Having done so she asked if she could become one of the claimant's PhD students, he declined as he had too much work.

  12. The claimant was also teaching an executive version of the MiM programme, the Executive Global Master's in Management (GMiM). On 12 July...

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