Nervous Shock

Word document explaining the specific duty situation of nervous shock.

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Nervous shock is when C suffers injury through impact on the mind. It cannot be grief (HINZ v BERRY)
or a normal human emotion such as fear (REILEY v MERESYSIDE REGIONAL HEALTH AUTHORITY) that C
suffers, it needs to be a definite psychiatric illness (VERNON v BOSELY) that must be a shocking event
Originally nervous shock was not recoverable (VICTORIA RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS v COULTAS) and
this has been for various reasons: the fear of fraud, inadequate knowledge of psychiatry, the
difficulty in proving causation, the assessment of loss in monetary terms and floodgates. These
concerns do still exist today though.
A distinction has to be made between victims however; a primary victim is one that fears for
themselves and a secondary victim fear for another.
The case of DULIEU v WHITE was the first to allow recovery for nervous shock, a primary victim with
clear physical symptoms. This was expanded by HAMBROOK v STOKES which was the first case that
allowed a secondary victim to recover. The case of BOURHILL v YOUNG was the first to suggest the
idea that there must be a relationship to make the shock foreseeable enough so C will recover.
BOARDMAN v SANDERSON said that hearing the incident was sufficient. In MCLOUGHLIN v O'BRIAN C
recovered for the immediate aftermath (1 hour later and 2 miles away) and Lord Wilberforce said
this was based on foreseeability, C's relationship to the victim and proximity to the scene and this
decision was later used in ALCOCK. This is regarded as the high point of liability as it made secondary
and primary almost equal.
In all situations the victim must be taken as they are found as per the egg shell skull principle, BRICE v
BROWN was the first to apply this and then PAGE v SMITH confirmed its use as well as CORR v IBC
In ATTIA v BRITISH GAS the C recovered for damage to property.
Following the Hillsborough Disaster the case of ALCOCK v CHIEF CONSTABLE OF SOUTH YORKSHIRE
clarified three parts that must be satisfied to recover for nervous shock. The first part is that there
must be a sufficiently close relationship of love and affection to make it reasonably foreseeable, for
this there is a rebuttable presumption for spouses and parent/child but all other relationships need
to be proven. The second part is to be sufficiently close in time and space to scene of accident or
immediate aftermath where seeing bodies in the mortuary 8 hours after the event was too long. The
third part is it must be seen or hear using unaided senses, so all those watching the disaster on TV
failed but obiter it was said a live broadcast showing individual suffering may be sufficient and
broadcaster would be liable as it would be a NAI.
Originally rescuers could recover as shown by CHADWICK v BTC which was the first to allow a rescuer
(amateur) to recover. This was then extended to professional rescuers by HALE v LONDON
UNDERGROUND. Following ALCOCK the case of FROST decided the rescuer needed to take part in the
rescue activity however on appeal the case of WHITE has decided the rescuer must be in danger.
Following ALCOCK the case of TAYLOR v SOMERSET HEALTH AUTHORITY satisfied all parts of the test
but failed as there was no visible signs of injury so it was unforeseeable, a policy decision to stop
potential for floodgates by relatives identifying bodies. The case of ROBERTSON v FORTH BRIDGE
failed on relationship reducing likelihood of work colleagues recovering, but in the case of HUNTER v
BRITISH COAL guilt of responsibility for the harm may make the relationship sufficiently close. The
case of BOYLAN v KEEGAN did not allow C to recover for hearing the incident over a mobile phone as
this was not unaided senses, similar to W v ESSEX CC where the parents failed as they did not
see/hear the abuse with their unaided senses. Finally C cannot recover as a secondary victim if the
primary victim is D as shown by GREATOREX v GREATOREX.


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