Psychiatric harm – secondary victims
Court of Appeal: Sullivan LJ, Tomlinson 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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