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Page v Smith

[1996] AC 155

Case summary last updated at 19/01/2020 10:57 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Page v Smith

P’s car was hit by that of D who was driving carelessly. This made a pre-existing condition of D’s so chronic that he would never again be able to have full-time employment, despite not sustaining physical injuries. HL allowed P’s appeal and said that provided that “personal harm” was reasonably foreseeable, it was irrelevant whether the harm was psychiatric or physical. The important distinction is between “primary and secondary” victims, with the various controls coming into place where secondary victims are concerned. 
 
Lord Lloyd (endorsed by the majority): To require foreseeability as to the specific type of injury (e.g. psychiatric rather than physical) leaves too much down to moral luck. Suppose P broke his finger and it was held to be a foreseeable consequence from the way D was driving- is it fair that because D could be liable for the lesser harm he causes but not the greater harm purely because of categorisation? D “takes his victim as he finds him”. Secondly, the distinction between psychiatric and physical harm is dodgy. He also says that the “reasonable person (P)” is only required in secondary victim cases for the sake of limiting no. potential plaintiffs. This doesn’t apply to primary plaintiffs. No danger of floodgates because proximity still has to be proved as does the psychiatric injury (not mere shock or fright). 

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