Psychiatric harm – secondary victims
Court of Appeal: Sullivan LJ, Tomlinson LJ, Beatson LJ
17 June 2015
This claim arose from the negligence on the part of the defendant in respect of a hysterectomy performed on the claimant’s wife on 8 July 2008. As a result she became very unwell and deteriorated rapidly over a period of 24 hours from 18 July, before later making a full recovery. The claimant claimed that he had suffered psychiatric injury in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (‘PTSD’) consequent upon the shock of seeing his wife’s deterioration. He succeeded in obtaining an award of £9,165.88 from Liverpool County Court. The defendant successfully appealed this decision.
At first instance Judge Allan Gore QC rejected the claimant’s case that he suffered from PTSD, but he found that he suffered from a frank psychiatric illness. This was disputed by the defendant. Their appeal concentrated upon two interrelated points: (a) whether the events concerned were of a nature capable of founding a secondary victim case, ie were they in the necessary sense ‘horrifying’; and (b) whether the sudden appreciation of that event of those events, ie shock, cause the claimant’s psychiatric illness.
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