Bourhill v Young’s Executor: HL 5 Aug 1942

When considering claims for damages for shock, the court only recognised the action lying where the injury by shock was sustained ‘through the medium of the eye or the ear without direct contact.’ Wright L said: ‘No doubt, it has long ago been stated and often restated that if the wrong is established the wrongdoer must take the victim as he finds him. That, however, is only true . . on the condition that the wrong has been established or admitted. The question of liability is anterior to the question of the measure of the consequences which go with the liability.’
Lord Russell of Killowen: ‘In considering whether a person owes to another a duty a breach of which will render him liable to that other in damages for negligence, it is material to consider what the defendant ought to have contemplated as a reasonable man. This consideration may play a double role. It is relevant in cases of admitted negligence (where the duty and breach are admitted) to the question of remoteness of damage, ie, to the question of compensation not to culpability, but it is also relevant in testing the existence of a duty as the foundation of the alleged negligence, ie, to the question of culpability not to compensation.’
Lord MacMillan, Lord Wright, Lord Russell of Killowen
[1943] AC 92, [1943] SC (HL) 78, 1943 SLT 105, [1942] UKHL 5
Bailii
Scotland
Citing:
DisapprovedOwens v Liverpool Corporation CA 1938
Four family mourners at a funeral appealed against rejection of their claims for damages for distress caused by witnessing a collision between a negligently driven tramcar and the hearse.The incident had involved no apprehension, or sight, or sound . .

Cited by:
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police HL 28-Nov-1991
The plaintiffs sought damages for nervous shock. They had watched on television, as their relatives and friends, 96 in all, died at a football match, for the safety of which the defendants were responsible. The defendant police service had not . .
CitedBritish Railways Board v Herrington HL 16-Feb-1972
Land-owner’s Possible Duty to Trespassers
The plaintiff, a child had gone through a fence onto the railway line, and been badly injured. The Board knew of the broken fence, but argued that they owed no duty to a trespasser.
Held: Whilst a land-owner owes no general duty of care to a . .
CitedGiullietta Galli-Atkinson v Seghal CA 21-Mar-2003
The claimant’s daughter was fatally injured in car accident, dying shortly after. The mother came upon the scene, witnessed a police cordon at the scene of the accident and was told of her death. She later saw the injuries at the mortuary and . .
CitedKing v Phillips CA 1952
Denning LJ said: ‘there can be no doubt since Bourhill v. Young that the test of liability for shock is foreseeability of injury by shock.’ A person ‘who suffers shock on being told of an accident to a loved one cannot recover damages from the . .
CitedSalter v UB Frozen Chilled Foods OHCS 25-Jul-2003
The pursuer was involved in an accident at work, where his co-worker died. He suffered only psychiatric injury.
Held: Being directly involved, the pursuer was a primary victim, and accordingly not subject to the limits on claiming for . .
CitedSmith v Littlewoods Organisation Limited (Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary, third party); Maloco v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd HL 1987
The defendant acquired a semi derelict cinema with a view to later development of the site. A fire started by others spread to the pursuer’s adjoining property.
Held: The defendants were not liable in negligence. The intervention of a third . .
CitedAB and others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust QBD 26-Mar-2004
Representative claims were made against the respondents, hospitals, pathologists etc with regard to the removal of organs from deceased children without the informed consent of the parents. They claimed under the tort of wrongful interference.
CitedSteel v Glasgow Iron and Steel Co Ltd 1944
The question was whether the actions of the deceased had broken the chain of causation when he intervened in an attempt to save property. ‘This rule of the ‘reasonable and probable consequence’ is a key that opens several locks; for it not only . .
CitedSimmons v British Steel plc HL 29-Apr-2004
The claimant was injured at work as a consequence of the defender’s negligence. His injuries became more severe, and he came to suffer a disabling depression.
Held: the Inner House had been wrong to characterise the Outer House decision as . .
CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound No 1) PC 18-Jan-1961
Complaint was made that oil had been discharged into Sydney Harbour causing damage. The court differentiated damage by fire from other types of physical damage to property for the purposes of liability in tort, saying ‘We have come back to the plain . .
CitedMcKillen v Barclay Curle and Co Ltd 1967
The Lord Ordinary had awarded the pursuer damages for tuberculosis, on the basis that in the accident he had fractured a rib and this had reactivated his pre-existing tuberculosis.
Held: The pursuer had failed to prove the causal connexion . .
CitedIslington London Borough Council v University College London Hospital NHS Trust CA 16-Jun-2005
The local authority sought repayment from a negligent hospital of the cost of services it had had to provide to an injured patient. They said that the hospital had failed to advise the patient to resume taking warfarin when her operation was . .
CitedCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd CA 31-Mar-2006
corr_ibcCA2006
The deceased had suffered a head injury whilst working for the defendant. In addition to severe physical consequences he suffered post-traumatic stress, became more and more depressed, and then committed suicide six years later. The claimant . .
CitedJohnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd; Rothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd; similar HL 17-Oct-2007
The claimant sought damages for the development of neural plaques, having been exposed to asbestos while working for the defendant. The presence of such plaques were symptomless, and would not themselves cause other asbestos related disease, but . .
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police QBD 31-Jul-1990
Overcrowding at a football match lead to the deaths of 95 people. The defendant’s employees had charge of safety at the match, and admitted negligence vis-a-vis those who had died and been injured. The plaintiffs sought damages, some of them for . .
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police CA 31-May-1991
The defendant policed a football match at which many people died. The plaintiffs, being relatives and friends of the deceased, inter alia suffered nervous shock having seen the events either from within the ground, or from outside or at home on . .
RejectedMcLoughlin v O’Brian HL 6-May-1982
The plaintiff was the mother of a child who died in an horrific accident, in which her husband and two other children were also injured. She was at home at the time of the accident, but went to the hospital immediately when she had heard what had . .
CitedLiverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Ronayne CA 17-Jun-2015
The respondent was an experienced ambulance driver. His wife underwent emergency treatment at the appellant’s hospital. He had claimed as a secondary victim for the distress he suffered witnessing her suffering.
Held: The hospital’s appeal . .
CitedWooldridge v Sumner and Another CA 4-Jun-1962
The plaintiff photographer was injured when attending a show jumping competition at the White City Stadium. A horse caught him as it passed.
Held: The defendant’s appeal against the finding of negligence succeeded: ‘a competitor or player . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 May 2021; Ref: scu.180104