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Psychiatric Harm Notes

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This is an extract of our Psychiatric Harm document, which we sell as part of our GDL Tort Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students.

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PSYCHIATRIC HARM




Complex and arbitrary modern law in relation to pure psychiatric harm.
o Jane Stapleton argues that the way to get rid of arbitrary distinctions is to ensure that no one can sue. Others argue we should make it much easier for people to be able to sue.
If a mix of physical injury and psychiatric harm then follow normal negligence procedure.
Notes in this section relate to damage and duty of care re psychiatric damage. Remember still need to prove breach, and causation.
NB courts can use term 'nervous shock' this has no medical meaning.
Psychiatric damage is defined medically:
o Lord Goff in White v CC S Yorkshire [1998]: "the plaintiff must have suffered psychiatric injury in the form of a recognized psychiatric illness"
 Mere grief is not enough.
 Chadwick v British Railway Board [1967] -
depression resulting from helping victims in rail crash qualified

Reilly v Merseyside RHA [1994] - Couple trapped in lift for over an hour. Claustrophobia and fear are not recognised.
 Mann LJ: "The sound policy of the law is that the excitement of a normal human emotion, together with its normal physical consequence, is not compensatable."
o Vernon v Bosley [1996] - Plaintiff suffered distress after witnessing fire fighters attempt to rescue her children from the wreckage of a car following a road traffic accident
 Grief does qualify once it becomes pathological.
Foreseeability:
o As with a standard DoC, it must be reasonably foreseeable that the Defendant's failure to take care would cause the type of damage suffered.
o Modern law in this area is laid out in the following case:
o Alcock v CC of South Yorkshire Police [1992] Hillsborough case. The scenes were broadcast live on television and were also repeated on news broadcasts. 10 relatives of the deceased brought claims for psychiatric damage suffered.
 All of the claims failed.
 Lord Oliver distinguished between primary and secondary victims.
 A primary victim one involved mediately or immediately as a participant and a secondary victim one who is no more than a passive and unwilling witness of injury to others. 

Primary victims must demonstrate that some type of physical harm is foreseeable for claim to succeed.
Secondary victims will only succeed if they can prove that psychiatric harm is forseeable as well as the
Alcock criteria:
 1. A close tie of love and affection to a primary victim (e.g. usual relation between husband and wife/parent and child)
 2. Proximity to the event or its immediate aftermath
 3. Witness the event with their own unaided senses
 4. The psychiatric injury must be caused by a shocking event

Primary Victims:
o One who suffers psychiatric harm after being 'directly involved' in an accident. Need merely demonstrate that some form of personal injury was reasonably foreseeable.
 Page v Smith [1996] - Car crash triggered C's ME
(chronic fatigue syndrome) which had been in remission but was now made permanent. Thin skull rule applied. Awarded £162,000 in damages.
 Held that provided some kind of personal injury was foreseeable it did not matter whether the injury was physical or psychiatric.
o People who were exposed to physical danger, or who reasonably believe that they were exposed to such danger,
qualify as 'primary' victims.
 Dulieu v White [1901] - Horse and cart crashed into pub causing landlady mental injury and caused her to give birth prematurely. This led to developmental problems. Held recovery could be allowed if there was grounds for reasonable fear of immediate physical injury where there is no actual impact
 Boumedien v Delta Display [2008] - Claimant was asleep at home in his ground floor bedroom when in the middle of the night the defendant negligently drove off the road and hit the garden wall. Claimant developed psychiatric illness.
 Held either he was a primary victim or he wasn't a victim at all (could not have close tie of love and affection with wall).
 Sent for retrial.
o Rescuers are not generally primary victims:
 Chadwick v BTC [1967] - Chadwick lived 200 yards from scene of horrific train crash. Ran to scene and worked through the night to help victims. Suffered

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