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Chapter

Cover Tort Law

5. Special duty problems: psychiatric harm  

This chapter begins by explaining the meaning of psychiatric harm. It then discusses the general exclusionary rule; the distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ victims; and other circumstances where the law recognises victims of psychiatric harms as having a claim in negligence (rescuers, involuntary participants, communicators of shocking news, self-harm by the defendant and ‘assumption of responsibility’ cases). Though initially psychiatric harm was recoverable only if accompanied by physical injury, it is now clear that the claimant can recover for pure psychiatric harm so long as it is a recognised psychiatric illness. It is not, therefore, possible to recover in the tort of negligence for mere grief, anxiety or distress.

Chapter

Cover Tort Law: Text and Materials

7. Negligence: Duty of Care—Psychiatric Illness  

This chapter examines liability for psychiatric illness in negligence. It considers liability to a person who witnesses the death, injury or imperilment of another person (‘secondary victim’ cases); cases where the claimant was involved as a participant’ in the traumatic event (‘primary victim’ cases); and cases of stress-related illness. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of the current law in this area and consideration of reform proposals.

Chapter

Cover Tort Law

5. Special duty problems: psychiatric harm  

This chapter begins by explaining the meaning of psychiatric harm. Though initially psychiatric harm was recoverable only if accompanied by physical injury, it is now clear that the claimant can recover for pure psychiatric harm so long as it is a recognised psychiatric illness. The chapter considers the distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ victims and other circumstances where the law recognises victims of psychiatric harms as having a claim in negligence (rescuers, involuntary participants, communicators of shocking news, self-harm by the defendant and ‘assumption of responsibility’ cases).

Chapter

Cover Casebook on Tort Law

4. Special duty problems: psychiatric harm  

This chapter discusses the ‘special duty issue’ that arises when a person has suffered psychiatric harm as a result of the defendant’s negligence. This issue has an interesting history, for it was thought at first that a claimant could only succeed if he or she was within the range of physical impact. In other words, only the ‘primary’ victim could sue. Liability was later extended to secondary victims; that is, where the claimant was not at risk of physical injury, but saw or heard the accident which caused the shock with his or her own unaided senses.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Tort Law

Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310  

Essential Cases: Tort Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310. The document also included supporting commentary from author Craig Purshouse.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Tort Law

Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310  

Essential Cases: Tort Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310. The document also included supporting commentary from author Craig Purshouse.

Chapter

Cover Lunney & Oliphant's Tort Law

7. Negligence: Duty of Care—Psychiatric Illness  

Donal Nolan and Ken Oliphant

This chapter examines liability for psychiatric illness in negligence, and in particular the limits that are placed on claims for such illness at the duty of care stage. It considers liability to a person who was involved as a participant in the traumatic event (‘primary victim’ cases); liability to a person who witnessed the death, injury or imperilment of a third party (‘secondary victim’ cases); and other types of case, such as illness caused by stress at work. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of the current law in this area and a consideration of proposals that have been made for its reform.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Tort Law

McLoughlin v O’Brian [1983] 1 AC 410  

Essential Cases: Tort Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in McLoughlin v O’Brian [1983] 1 AC 410. The document also included supporting commentary from author Craig Purshouse.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Tort Law

McLoughlin v O’Brian [1983] 1 AC 410  

Essential Cases: Tort Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in McLoughlin v O’Brian [1983] 1 AC 410. The document also included supporting commentary from author Craig Purshouse.

Chapter

Cover Tort Law Directions

5. Negligence: duty of care problem areas  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. Questions, diagrams, and exercises help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress. The tort of negligence originated as a remedy for property damage and physical injury. However, recovery of compensation for psychiatric injury and pure economic loss, in cases where they were not caused by physical injury or property damage, has proved difficult. Duty of care for psychiatric injury is contingent upon whether the claimant is a primary or secondary victim. This chapter discusses the policy reasons for limiting duty of care for psychiatric injury, the mechanisms by which the law limits duty of care for psychiatric injury, the meaning of ‘pure economic loss’, and the development of the Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd (1964) principle of liability for negligent statements. The chapter also examines the ‘thin skull’ rule, which applies to psychiatric injury in the same way as to physical injury.