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Mustapha v Culligan of Canada Ltd, 2008 SCC 27 (Link)


M saw fly in bottle of water produced by C. M went into depression and nervous shock, and sued C for negligence.

Trial judge awarded damages: said there was duty, breach, damage and causation. The could applied a subjective test (M’s particular sensibilities) rather than an objective test.

Appeal overturned judgement: said injury was not reasonably foreseeable, and therefore did not give rise to a cause of action.


Does the company have a duty of care to Mustapha?

Does liability extend to nervous shock resulting from a breach of standard of care?


In a duty of care analysis concerning nervous shock, damage caused by a breach in the standard of care must be reasonably foreseeable. The plaintiff must show that her or his mental injury would have occurred in a person of ordinary, reasonable fortitude.


Negligence in general:
** 1. Duty of care owed
** 2. Breach of standard of care
** 3. Plaintiff sustained damage
** 4. Causation

M’s claim fails because of failure to establish causation:
** Damage is too remote to allow recovery: No foreseeable of causation (as opposed to foreseeability in duty as used by Appeal)

1. Not a novel category of relationship (Donoghue v Stevenson), so there is a duty of care
2. Breached standard of care
3. M sustained damage, psychiatric injury
4. Breach of duty did cause M’s psychiatric injury (in fact)
** Did breach cause damage in law?
*** Reasonable person test: what would a person of ordinary fortitude suffer?
*** Unusual or extreme reactions to events caused by negligence are imaginable but not reasonably foreseeable -- reasonable foresight
*** If defendant has actual knowledge of plaintiff’s sensibilities, then reasonable foresight may come to a different conclusion
**Therefore, no foreseeable causation


Appeal dismissed in favour of Culligan.


  1. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum 32

    Thanks :D

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