To begin with, the issue here is whether or not
Bill can seek damages for negligence for psychiatric illness. As shown in Chadwick
v British Railway Board,
to claim for psychiatric illness, the claimant has to show a recognised
medical condition usually caused by shock. In this case, Bill’s depression is a
recognised medical condition induced by the shock of Annie dying in his arms. In
order to prove this however, the claim must meet the requirements for
That is, the defendant has to we the claimant a duty of care, the defendant
must be in breach of that duty and the breach must have been a sufficient cause.The defendant has to owe the claimant a duty of
Duty of care is interestingly tedious to show in cases of psychiatric harm, as
duty is usually owed if the claimant could be reasonably foreseeable as a
There are two major classifications for a
victims namely; primary victim and secondary victim. In Page v Smith (1996)2 a
primary victim is a victim who was directly involved in the accident and at
risk of physical harm, regardless of whether or not it was actually suffered. As long as physical harm is reasonably
foreseeable, showing foreseeability of psychiatric harm is unnecessary3.
People that assist in an accident are secondary victims, because they usually
do not know the victims4.
However, due to their response to the cry for help, they are treated
Lord Steyn, in White v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire6
Police established that a rescuer could only be considered as a primary victim
if he ‘objectively exposed himself to a danger or reasonably believed he was
doing so’. The courts have usually concluded that defendants don’t just owe a
duty of care to those who they endangered
first by their negligent actions, but also to rescuers who choose to rescue7.In this case, Bill is primary victim as
rescuer. It is reasonably foreseeable
for a person, who is exposed to the negligent act of using faulty gas valves,
to be at risk of suffering a physical harm. He ran back into the house help and
assist Annie after the explosion. The house was devastated, and Annie was on
fire, he proceeded to extinguish the fire, knowing it could burn him at any
time, which would make the situation objectively dangerous. Although, he suffered no physical damage, the
risk of it, is sufficient to make him a primary victim. The fact that it was the
negligent act of fitting a faulty gas valve, that endangered Bill, establishes
a duty of care between Power plus and Bill.
In conclusion it can be said, that a duty of
care is owed by Power plus to Bill, due to the fact that he is a primary victim
as a rescuer. It is important to note
however, that due to policy reasons, the courts can be quite reluctant to find
duty of care as rescuer, as shown in Alcock1.
This is due to the fact that, they wouldn’t want to open floodgates for claims.
However in White2,
the courts established that rescuers would only be considered primary victims
if, they were objectively exposed to danger, even if the rescuer wasn’t
necessarily of this danger.
The next thing to consider is that there needs
to be a breach of that duty. The claimant needs to show that the defendant was
in breach of that duty. There can only be a breach, if the defendant acts below
the standards set by law1,
as seen in Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks2.
In other words, the defendant has to be at fault.
Annie and Bill were called out to fix the gas leak, they found an old pipe
which needed replacing. The fact that Power plus had installed a faulty gas
valve in a house with an old gas pipe, is standard that falls well below the
reasonable standards expected by a gas maintenance company. It is their job to
maintain gas infrastructure within a home and install working gas valves
Therefore, in conclusion, Power plus have
simply breached their duty of care, as they had installed a faulty gas valve,
which was conduct that was well below the standard expected of Gas Company.
The final element needed for a claim to succeed
in other words, the damage the claimant suffered as a result of the breach of duty by the defendant.
The defendant must have factually caused the damage, as shown in Barnett v
In addition, the defendant must also have legally caused the claimant’s damage
as seen in Mcghee v NCB3, without
being too remote.
In application, but for the negligence of Power
plus in breaching their duty of care, would Bill’s psychiatric harm have occurred?
In other words, but for exposing Bill as a rescuer, to danger, by installing faulty
gas valves, would Bill’s psychiatric harm have occurred? The simple is yes. If
Power plus had done their job by making sure they installed proper gas valves,
then Bill’s psychiatric harm caused by the shock from trying to save Annie
would not have occurred. In addition, Power plus’s installation of faulty gas
valves, did materially contribute, as it led to a dangerous situation for Bill,
who they sent to do his job.
psychiatric harm must not be too remote. To prove this we must consult Wagmound
which says that the damage must foreseeable. If it is, then the defendant will
be liable for all damages, regardless of the extent. When applied to this, it
is reasonable to see that psychiatric harm could occur, as an explosion could lead
to all sorts of trauma, be it physical or psychological. Although, the defendants
could argue that they had reasonably foreseen that their negligence could cause
the claimant some psychiatric harm, therefore their liability should be limited
to the cost of the time taken of work5.
However, when the egg/thin skull rule as seen in smith v leech brain, is
applied, the defendant must take the victim as he finds him6.
In other words, regardless of whether or not he already had depression prior to
the accident, they would still be held liable
Therefore, in regards to Bill, it is quite
clear that Powerplus’s breach of their duty factually and legally caused Bill’s
psychiatric harm. It is also safe to conclude that the damage is not too
In conclusion, having proven that Power plus
owed Bill a duty of care, power plus was in breach of that duty, and breach was
the not too remote cause of Bill’s damages, it is safe to conclude that Bill
will be able to sue for Negligence for Psychiatric illness and succeed. Bill
will be able to claim general damages as shown in Bennett v Greenland Houchen
& Co7.To begin with, the issue here is whether or not
PC Keane can seek damages for negligence for psychiatric illness. To claim for psychiatric illness, the claimant
must show a recognised medical
condition usually induced by shock1.
In this case PC Keane’s depression is a recognised medical condition
induced by the shock of Annie dying in his arms. In order to prove this
however, the claim must fulfil the certain requirements.
The defendant must owe the claimant a duty of
care. Duty is usually owed if the claimant could be reasonably foreseeable as a
has generally been established, that the defendant would usually owe a duty of
care, to those, that would respond to an emergency2. There
are two major classifications for avictims namely; primary victim and secondary
victim. In Page v Smith (1996)1 a
primary victim is a victim who was directly involved in the accident and at
risk of physical harm, regardless of whether or not it was actually suffered.
In this case, PC Keane does not fulfil the requirements of a primary victim, as
he was not directly involved in the accident, and according to White2,
he could not be a rescuer, as he was not within the zone of danger. There was no risk of harm to him, as the fire
had been extinguished, and the situation was no longer objectively dangerous. Therefore, the only other way he could claim
is a secondary victim. “A secondary
victim is a victim who suffers psychiatric injury as a result of witnessing
someone else being harmed or endangered”3.
There are certain requirements that must be fulfilled for a secondary victim4.
These requirements include; psychiatric harm must be foreseeable as seen in
Mcloughlin v O’Brian (1982)5,
the relationship between the victim and claimant must have been a close “of
love and affection” as shown in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police
proximity in time and space7,
and finally there must be proximity of perception, as seen in Sion v Hampstead
The claimant must prove that psychiatric
illness was reasonably foreseeable. This connotes showing that a person of
“ordinary fortitude” or “customary phlegm” might have suffered psychiatric
illness in the same circumstances9. When
the facts are considered, it is reasonably foreseeable that a police officer or
a person responding to an emergency call of an explosion, where he witnesses
distressing and extreme circumstances, would suffer a psychiatric illness. This
can be supported by consulting Bourhill v Young10.
However, to find duty of care as a secondary
victim, we would need more than just reasonable foreseeability11.
We would need to consider the relationship between Annie the victim and PC
Keane. The only relationship PC Keane
has with Annie, is the relationship between a police officer and victim, which
as a matter of fact, does not fall under the class of persons whose claim would
be recognised as a result of their relationship with the victim. The class that
would be recognised is that of “love and affection”. There, is no evidence to
show that this existed. This is shown in Alcock12,
where people who tried to claim psychiatric injury from seeing people die, saw
their claim rejected, due to the fact that they did not have the requirement of
a close relationship of “love and affection “with the “immediate” victim. The
courts require that the close relationship must at least mirror that between a
spouse, husband, parent or child13.
The next requirement would be that of proximity
in time and space. The Lords in Alcock, said that succeeding as a secondary
victim requires the defendant to show a high degree of proximity to the
accident in time and space14.
In other words, they have to either witness the accident as it goes on, or witness
its immediate aftermath. PC Keane, did not witness the accident, however he did
witness a burnt Anna literally dying in Bill’s arms. In other words, he did
witness the immediate aftermath. Therefore, this would suffice, as meeting the
requirement, as he was within proximity in time and space.
The last requirement to meet is that there must
be a proximity of perception15.
In other words, as Lord Jauncey put it in Alcock16
“. The means by which the shock is caused constitutes a second control,
although in these appeals I find it difficult to separate this from Proximity.”
This is similar to proximity in time and space but the courts added “sudden
to it. In other words, as said in Alcock18, “the
psychiatric illness in question must result from the sudden psychological
impact of, witnessing a single event or in its immediate aftermath”. When we
consider the facts, we can find that the depression could be said to have
resulted from the traumatic psychological impact of seeing a burnt Annie, being
comforted and eventually dying in Bill’s arm.
In conclusion, however, due to the fact, that
PC Keane did not fulfil the requirement of a close relationship with the victim
of “love and affection”, we cannot find duty of care. If duty of care cannot be found, Power Plus
cannot be held to liable; as the courts would require all the elements for
negligence to be fulfilled before liability can be found. Therefore, PC Keane’s
claim would fail.The issue here is whether Edward can claim
damages in negligence for psychiatric harm. To prove this, Edward must show
that he is suffering from a recognised medical condition usually induced by
shock. This is a basic
requirement and it is proven in Alcock1
where Lord Ackner says “the law gives no
damages if the psychiatric injury was not induced by shock. Psychiatric
illnesses caused in other ways, such as from the experience of having to cope
with the deprivation consequent upon the death of a loved one, attract no
When the facts are applied, we
find that it needs to be a recognised psychiatric harm. As shown in Hicks v
Chief constable of South Yorkshire Police(1992)2,
the law does not regard grief or anxiety , which is the psychiatric effect
Edward experienced, as a recognised psychiatric harm.
It is possible to note that,
although with the facts presented, had he suffered from a recognised
psychiatric illness, we would have had to identify what sort of victim he was.
However, the first requirement is that the psychological harm must be a
medically recognised one3.
Overwhelming grief is not a medically recognised. Although, grief was seen to
be recognised as a medically recognised illness in Kralj v Mcgrath4,
this will not apply to this case, as the claimant in that case suffered from “Pathological
grief”, which is a medically recognised.
Therefore, due to the fact
that all Edward suffered was just grief, he will not be able to claim in
negligence for psychiatric harm, due to the fact that he was not suffering a
recognisable psychiatric harm.