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Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, [1992] 1 AC 310 (Link)

Facts:

People were crammed into a stadium for a soccer game. While in the stadium, 95 people died and over 400 were injured. Friends and family of people in the stadium (some of whom were also in the stadium) witness the event live or afterwards. The friends and family suffered nervous shock and psychiatric illness, and sued the police for negligence.

Issue(s):

Did the police have a duty of care to the secondary victims who suffered nervous shock from viewing the consequences of police actions?

More specifically: Can the boundaries of a cause of action for negligence be extended in the following ways:
** 1. Remove any restrictions on the categories of persons who may sue;
** 2. Extend the means by which the shock is caused, so that it includes viewing the simultaneous broadcast on television of the incident which caused the shock;
** 3. Modifying the present requirement that the aftermath must be immediate.

Ratio:

A person suffering nervous shock must have reasonable proximity to the event that caused the shock in order to claim for damages.

Analysis:

Class of persons whose claim should be recognized:
** If duty extends to immediate family, why not other associations?
** Case by case basis (nature of the negligent act or omission, gravity of the injury)

Proximity of the plaintiff to the accident:
** Time and space
** Immediate aftermath: Case by case -- does not include seeing the body at a mortuary 8 hours later

The means by which the shock is caused:
** Television station mediates what is broadcast
** Therefore shocks sustained through tv or radio cannot found a claim

The court noted that a breach of duty of care affecting third parties must be determined on a case by case basis.

Holding:

Appeals dismissed. Case by case analysis revealed no proximity and/or no causation.


Discussion

  1. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum 32

    Thanks!! :)

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