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Alcock v Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police [1991] 4 All ER 907

Facts:

D caused a large disaster at a sports stadium for which they admit liability. P are people who were not there but connected to the various victims and claim shock causing psychiatric illness. It was broadcast on television

Issue(s):

Can we expand psychiatric damage arising from shock to a wider class of persons, include seeing on television, and modifying aftermath so its not just immediate?

Ratio:

The class of persons must be decided on a case by case basis, television not generally but in some circumstances may be equivalent to seeing and hearing, and immediacy remains a requirement.

Analysis:

A claim for damages arising from shock can be made out if:
1) Without the necessity of the plaintiff establishing that he was himself injured or was in fear of personal injury
2) Shock results from (a) death or injury of spouse or child or fear of such death or injury (b) sight or hearing of the event or its immediate aftermath
Hay v Young Mental shock is area of greater subtlety
-Not simply the reasonable foreseeability test
--Even if psychiatric harm is foreseeable, if it’s not from shock it’s not actionable (e.g. the caregiver of a tortuously injured party)
--Despite foreseeability of injury, the accident must be perceived by the plaintiff, it’s not enough that they’re informed about it
--Mental suffering without physical injury is not a basis for damages
--Someone who dies by their own intention or negligence may cause shock to people who see it, yet there is an inherent limit on the duty of care they owe
--Must be sudden shock, cannot be gradually accumulated

-Class of Persons: Should be deicded on a case by case basis, no reason to limit it to just parents and spouses, since many other relations and even just being a bystander could result in reasonably foreseeable psychiatric damage. No evidence given of specially intimate brotherly love.
-Proximity to Accident: Doesn’t need to be heard or seen directly, but does need to be the immediate aftermath. Identifying the bodies a few hours later is not sufficiently immediate.
-Means by Which Shock is Caused: Here the TV does not count as equivalent to sight and hearing of it, but this would not always hold. Key thing is images of specific victims it seems.

Holding:

P lost.


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