Jaensch v Coffey; 20 Aug 1984

References: (1984) 55 CLR 549, [1984] 54 ALR 417, [1985] CLY 2326, [1984] HCA 52
Links: Austlii
Coram: Gibbs CJ, Murphy, Brennan, Deane and Dawson JJ
(High Court of Australia) The claimant’s husband was injured. She saw his injuries at hospital and was affected. She claimed damages for her own shock.
Held: The driver owed her a duty of care, and was liable for negligence which caused nervous shock. A finding at first instance that she had normal fortitude, her predisposition to anxiety and depression gave no defence.
Brennan J said: ‘Liability for negligence occasioning nervous shock has not been readily accepted, perhaps because the courts found evidence of psychiatric illness and of its aetiology to be too vague to warrant a finding of a causal relationship between psychiatric illness and careless conduct . . A plaintiff may recover only if the psychiatric illness is the result of physical injury negligently inflicted on him by the defendant or if it is induced by ‘shock’. Psychiatric illness caused in other ways attracts no damages . . I understand ‘shock’ in this context to mean the sudden sensory perception – that is, by seeing, hearing or touching – of a person, thing or event, which is so distressing that the perception of the phenomenon affronts or insults the plaintiff’s mind and causes a recognizable psychiatric illness.’
This case cites:

  • Cited – McLoughlin -v- O’Brian HL ([1983] 1 AC 410, [1982] 2 All ER 298, Bailii, [1982] UKHL 3)
    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 . .

This case is cited by:

  • Cited – Alcock and Others -v- Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police HL (Gazette 22-Jan-92, lip, [1991] 3 WLR 1057, Times 29-Nov-91, [1992] 1 AC 310, Bailii, [1991] UKHL 5)
    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 . .
  • Cited – Alcock and Others -v- Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police QBD (lip, [1991] 2 WLR 814, [1991] CLY 2671)
    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 . .
  • Cited – Taylor -v- A Novo (UK) Ltd CA (Bailii, [2013] EWCA Civ 194)
    The deceased had suffered a head injury at work from the defendant’s admitted negligence. She had been making a good recovery but then collapsed and died at home from pulmonary emboli, and thrombosis which were a consequence of the injury. The . .