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GDL Law Notes GDL Tort Law Notes

Psychiatric Injury Notes

Updated Psychiatric Injury Notes

GDL Tort Law Notes

GDL Tort Law

Approximately 591 pages

A collection of the best GDL notes the director of Oxbridge Notes (an Oxford law graduate) could find after combing through applications from top students and carefully evaluating each on accuracy, formatting, logical structure, spelling/grammar, conciseness and "wow-factor". In short these are what we believe to be the strongest set of GDL notes available in the UK this year. This collection of GDL notes is fully updated for recent exams, also making them the most up-to-date GDL study materials ...

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The meaning of nervous shock/psychiatric damage

  • It is the courts that decide – expert witnesses but it is the court’s decision as to what is means legally

The current position

  • Distinction between PRIMARY VICTIM and SECONDARY VICTIM: introduced by Lord Oliver in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police to explain previous decisions: must establish which type a claimant is before discussing whether a DOC is owed

Primary victim: someone who suffers nervous shock as a result of reasonable fear for their own physical safety – primary victim doesn’t actually suffer physical injury (this would bring negligence claim) – the primary victim is simply in reasonable fear (objective test) – primary victim is involved in the traumatic event in question

  • Dulieu v White: Claimant was a pregnant barmaid – defendant negligently crashed his coach and horses through a wall in her pub. She suffered nervous shock (and later a miscarriage) because she reasonably feared that she would be harmed in the collision – entitled to recover as a primary victim

  • Page v Smith – claimant involved in a car crash caused by the defendant’s negligence – whilst suffered no physical injury, the psychological effects worsened his ‘ME’ (chronic fatigue syndrome) condition so as to render him disabled – primary victim because his condition arose from reasonable fear for his own safety – condition that he had before came back

    • Shock as a catalyst for a medical reaction

    • Didn’t matter that he’d had it before – thin skull rule

Secondary victim: suffers nervous shock due to fear for someone else’s safety, usually close relative. Not in any fear for their own safety; they witness the traumatic event but are not involved

  • McLoughlin v O’Brian: secondary victim because she suffered psychiatric damage as a result of concern for her family

  • Alcock – all the claimants were secondary – at the football ground at the time of the disaster but none in danger themselves – nervous shock from seeing friends/relatives suffer

Problem cases – bystanders and rescuers

Courts not always consistent

  • If a rescuer or bystander suffers nervous shock due to fearing his own safety then will be a primary victim

    • Chadwick: claimant succeeded in claim for nervous shock as a result of helping to rescue victims from rail crash - primary

    • Wigg v British Railways Board: train driver who tried to rescue someone trapped under a train: he was himself in danger and suffered the nervous shock due to fearing his own safety

  • Contrast: White v Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police: police officers (C) from Hillsborough disaster – action was for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of experiences – claimed as employees and professional rescuers : HL dismissed claim – status as employees didn’t convert them to primary victims – and professional rescuers failed as they weren’t actually in danger themselves – court considered Chadwick v BRB and applied Alcock and Page v Smith

  • Considered again in Cullin v London Fire & Defence Authority: C was a fire fighter who suffered psychiatric injury after witnessing 2 colleagues trapped inside a burning building – attempt at rescuing them had failed – defendant claimed the case mirrored White but court instead followed obiter statements of Lord Goff in that case: could be argued that the claimant, in his rescue attempt, was exposed to danger or reasonably believed he could be subjected to physical injury – therefore primary victim

Position of bystanders: Unlikely to succeed

McFarlane v EE Caledonia Ltd – considered liability for nervous shock suffered by the claimant after an oil rig disaster

  • Laid down guidelines:

  1. Claimant must have been in actual area of danger but have escaped injury through good fortune/chance; or

  2. Even if not in danger, can recover if reasonably believed that he was

  3. Although not originally within the area of danger, he came into it later as a rescuer

  • C in McFarlane failed because he was not actually in danger and was not actively involved in rescue – bystander

Test for Duty of Care: primary victims

Page v Smith – held that the normal Caparo principles for determining the existence of DOC are applied to primary victims – much easier to satisfy than the one for secondary victims (Alcock)

Loss must be foreseeable:

  • Page v Smith – D had admitted negligent driving but had argued that psychiatric damage suffered (ME) was not foreseeable and therefore there was no DOC – HofL disagreed (if physical injury foreseeable then so is psychiatric) - no need to foresee psychiatric damage

  • Once foreseeability is established to a primary victim – remaining 2 elements of Caparo – proximity and fair, just + reasonableness are quite straightforward: primary victim is always present at the traumatic event - so there is always geographical proximity and if the defendant negligently and foreseeably puts the claimant in fear of their safety then it is likely the courts will find DOC fair, just and reasonable

Nervous shock must be a medically recognised form of psychiatric illness

  • Page v Smith: Barriers to prevent floodgates: need to prove that particular type of nervous shock is recoverable

  • Reilly v Merseyside HA: court refused to compensate a couple trapped in a lift for over an hour – court considered their shock to be only normal human emotion: You can’t claim for anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, palpitations

  • Medical definition used to define psychiatric dam – reference made to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the Glossary of Mental Disorders in the International Classification of Diseases

  • Hinz v Berry (1970) – Lord Denning – ‘a recognised psychiatric illness’

  • ‘a positive psychiatric illness’: McLoughlin v O’Brian and Alcock

  • Must 1st be established that the psychiatric condition giving rise to the physical conditions was a recognised psychiatric condition and that both psychiatric and physical injuries are material

    • E.g. of case where injuries not deemed to be...

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