Harlington vet loses £150,000 'bullying' claim against bosses after dog's death

A Harlington vet has lost a £150,000 bullying claim against her bosses after alleging she was "blamed" over the death of a dog in her care.
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Animal internal medicine specialist Dr Theresa McCann, 45, claimed colleagues "had a go" at her after the dog was put down in 2013.

Dr McCann claimed a confrontation in the car park led to a "downhill spiral of my health".

"I was humiliated," she told Judge Heather Baucher at Central London County Court.

Vet Dr Theresa McCann has lost her £150,000 'bullying' claim against her employerVet Dr Theresa McCann has lost her £150,000 'bullying' claim against her employer
Vet Dr Theresa McCann has lost her £150,000 'bullying' claim against her employer

She claimed a hostile atmosphere led to her suffering depression and so she sued her employers Davies Veterinary Specialists Ltd, based in the village of Higham Gobion, near Barton-Le-Clay.

But the judge rejected Dr McCann's claims entirely, saying she was not bullied and that the death of the dog had left a "professional scar" on her.

Judge Baucher said: "I have no doubt that she is a high achieving individual...

"Mrs McCann accepts that her clinical notes were sub-optimal. That is chastening for any professional.

“She takes a lot of care and pride in managing her cases.

"I consider that this ‘mistake’ has coloured her recollection of the incident and informs her attitude to any discussion in respect of it."

Dr McCann's lawyers told the court she had been working excessive hours when she looked after seriously ill "Holly", a dobermann, as an overnight emergency case in October 2013.

Sadly, the dog, which suffered from a neurological condition, could not be saved and was later put to sleep.

In the witness box, Dr McCann said she had arrived in the car park at work on October 11, 2013, to be greeted by three colleagues "shouting at me about my management of the case".

"I couldn't even get out of the car," she said, claiming that she was "yelled at openly" by two fellow vets, then had a third "criticising my case management".

"I lost my confidence because they wouldn't reassure me that I hadn't killed that dog," she said.

"They were not supportive over the whole incident."

"I felt that I was threatened," she added.

Mr Kendall said Dr McCann had previously worked full-time for the practice, but in 2013 she went to three-day weeks after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Despite launching the £150,000 lawsuit, the vet continues to work at the practice, where she is apparently "happy with the job".

Closing the case, Judge Baucher added: "I find that Mrs McCann has, faced with her own error, over analysed and scrutinised every aspect of the Holly incident so that what occurred has been magnified out of all proportion.

"Indeed, the contemporaneous record refers to the case 'playing on her mind'.

"This has resulted in her expressing, and indeed displaying, as was evident in the witness box, a somewhat distorted view of anything related to it."

The colleague who spoke to her in the car park had "made his opinion very clear and in so doing was no doubt brusque and direct," the judge said.

"However, I reject the assertion that he in any way shouted at Mrs McCann and sought to belittle her in public. I do not consider he would have acted in such an unprofessional manner," she added.

"I find that the exchange was no more than is common in any professional workplace and that Mrs McCann, for the reasons I have given, has simply reconstructed events in her own mind because she was emotionally fragile on the day and has thereafter questioned her own clinical competence."

She went on to dismiss Dr McCann's bullying claim and the other aspects of her compensation bid relating to management style and changes to her working pattern, finding that Davies Veterinary Specialists Ltd is "a considerate employer."

"I consider that the defendant has acted throughout in an entirely appropriate, supportive and sympathetic way towards Mrs McCann. I find no failings on its part," she concluded.

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