Thursday 2 July 2009

Important Case:  House of Lords considers Disability Discrimination Act

[Thanks to Paul Lewis of St John's Chambers for providing this case summary]

The House of Lords has handed down its important decision in the case of SCA Packaging v Boyle, which is authority for the proposition that the word 'likely' as used in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 should be interpreted as meaning 'could well happen', rather than 'more likely than not'.

In order to decide whether an illness (hoarseness caused by nodes on the vocal chords) qualified as a disability for the purposes of the DDA 1995, the Court had to consider meaning of the word 'likely' in two specific contexts: (a) the likelihood of a substantial adverse effect if the corrective measures were not taken and (b) the likelihood of a recurrence of that effect at some point in the future.

Wiping the slate clean, the House of Lords firmly rejected previous authority that 'likely' in the context of the DDA 1995 was taken to mean a 51% chance. In future, the courts will apply what is surely a much lower standard 'could well happen'. See in particular the discussion in the leading speech given by Baroness Hale at paras 65-75.

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