Law of Torts - Present Law On Nervous Shock

Elements Of Nervous Shock That The Plaintiff Must Prove

A. That the Plaintiff is suffering from positive psychiatric illness and not mere grief, sorrow and anxiety

Please refer to the case of Hinz v Berry.

Thin Skull Rule

i. In claim for Nervous Shock, the principle that the defendant must take his victim as he finds him is not applicable.

ii. The victim of Nervous Shock must be unduly sensitive and he must be of normal emotional fibre. Please refer to the case of Boruhill v Young.

iii. In certain circumstances P still can recover if he predispose to mental illness if he can show that he was living a normal life just before the disaster. Please refer to the case of Jaensh v Coffey.

Shock as a result of threatened accident – P still can claim.

Dooley v Cammell Laird & Co. Ltd - - P was a crane driver. He suffered Nervous Shock after his load, without any fault of his part fell into the hold of the ship where his friends were working. He feared that he might have killed or injured them. Court awarded his claim.

B. That P’s psychiatric illness is caused by the breach of duty by the defendant. Please refer to the case of Hinz v Berry.

C. That his Psychiatric illness is reasonably foreseeable and that proximity factors is satisfied.

Relationship between P and the injured person is so close that it is reasonably foreseeable that P will suffer from nervous shock.

McLoughlin v O’Brian - - parent v children and Spouse only.

Alcock’s Case - - It is also extended to all relationship that is based on love and affection (family relationship like brothers and sisters. (Please also refer to Storm v Greeves) where brother who saw his sister was hit by a lorry awarded damages.

A Bystander who is unconnected to the victim also can claim if the circumstances of a catastrophe occurring very close to him were particularly horrific.

Rescue cases – if a rescuer suffers nervous shock due to his rescue operation he is still entitle to a claim. Here the rescuer need not have to prove closeness of ties with the victim.

Chadwick v British Railways Board - - P assisted in the rescue of passengers involve in serious railway accident and suffer nervous shock. He is entitle to claim.

Proximity of P to the accident in time and space

i. Present at the scene or near the scene and immediate resort to scene on being told is necessary.

ii. Witnessing immediate aftermath of accident not at scene but at hospital is sufficient.

McLoughlin v O’Brian

iii. Post accident like identifying victim in mortuary not sufficient.

Jaensch v Coffey

iv. Both husband and wife involve in accident. Husband died and wife unconscious later was told and suffer nervous shock. Still can claim.

Schneider v Eishovitch

Andrew v William - - Mother died and P heard later still can claim. Both involve in same accident,

Communication by Third Person

i. Shock brought about from communication by others.

Hevican v Ruane - - P was told that the minibus in which his favorite son was traveling was involve with an accident. He was taken to the Police Station and was informed his son died. He then went to mortuary and identifies the body. He suffers nervous shock. It was held that P is still entitled to the claim although communicated by third party.

ii. Watching the event in television or hear from radio – this is still not sufficient because it does not satisfy the requirement of proximity factors. Plaintiff can’t recognize individuals involves. However it is not totally ruled out yet. 

See also the Alcock’s Case
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