Page v Smith: HL 12 May 1995

The plaintiff was driving his car when the defendant turned into his path. Both cars suffered considerable damage but the drivers escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff had a pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome, which manifested itself from time to time.
Held: (Majority) A claim in contract or tort for damages for psychiatric injury is a claim in respect of personal injuries. A claim for damages for nervous shock was possible where a physical injury was foreseeable even though not the nervous shock itself might not be foreseeable. The court must approach such questions considering the ‘control mechanisms’. Once it was established that the defendant was under a duty of care to avoid causing personal injury to the claimant, it mattered not whether the injury sustained was physical, psychiatric or both. Liability would be established without the necessity to prove as an independent part of the cause of action that psychiatric injury, in the absence of physical injury, was foreseeable.
It was sufficient that the defendant should have foreseen that his negligent driving might cause some physical injury. It did not matter that he could not have foreseen that the event which actually happened, namely a minor collision, would cause psychiatric injury.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick spoke as to the decision of the Court of Appeal: ‘In all these cases the plaintiff was the secondary victim of the defendant’s negligence. He or she was in the position of a spectator or bystander. In the present case, by contrast, the plaintiff was a participant. He was himself directly involved in an accident and well within the range of foreseeable physical injury. ‘ to which question the provisional answer was: ‘Foreseeability of psychiatric injury remains a crucial ingredient when the plaintiff is the secondary victim, for the very reason that the secondary victim is almost always outside the area of physical impact, and therefore outside the range of foreseeable physical injury. But where the plaintiff is the primary victim of the defendant’s negligence, the nervous shock cases, by which I mean the cases following on from Bourhill v Young, are not in point. Since the defendant was admittedly under a duty of care not to cause the plaintiff foreseeable physical injury, it was unnecessary to ask whether he was under a separate duty of care not to cause foreseeable psychiatric injury.’ and
‘Liability for physical injury depends on what was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant before the event. It could not be right that a negligent defendant should escape liability for psychiatric injury just because, though serious physical injury was foreseeable, it did not in fact transpire. Such a result in the case of a primary victim is neither necessary, logical nor just. To introduce hindsight into the trial of an ordinary running-down action would do the law no service.’
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: ‘The test in every case ought to be whether the defendant can reasonably foresee that his conduct will expose the plaintiff to risk of personal injury. If so, then he comes under a duty of care to that plaintiff. If a working definition of ‘personal injury’ is needed, it can be found in section 38(1) of the Limitation Act 1980: ‘Personal injuries’ includes any disease and any impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition . . ‘. There are numerous other statutory definitions to the same effect. In the case of a secondary victim, the question would usually turn on whether the foreseeable injury is psychiatric, for reasons already explained. In the case of a primary victim the question will almost always turn on whether the foreseeable injury is physical. But it is the same test in both cases, with different applications. There is no justification for regarding physical and psychiatric injury as different ‘kinds’ of injury. Once it is established that the defendant is under a duty of care to avoid causing personal injury to a plaintiff, it matters not whether the injury in fact sustained is physical, psychiatric or both. … Applying that test in the present case, it was enough to ask whether the defendant should reasonably have foreseen that the plaintiff might suffer physical injury as a result of the defendant’s negligence, so as to bring him within the range of the defendant’s duty of care. It was unnecessary to ask, as a separate question, whether the defendant should reasonably have foreseen injury by shock; and it is irrelevant that the defendant did not, in fact, suffer any external physical injury.’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: ‘Medical science has also demonstrated that there are other injuries the body can suffer as a consequence of an accident, such injuries not being demonstrably attributable directly to physical injury to the plaintiff. Injuries of this type may take two forms. First, physical illness or injury not brought about by the chain of demonstrable physical events, but by mental or emotional stresses, i.e. by a psychiatric route. Examples are a heart attack or a miscarriage produced by shock. In this case, the end product is a physical condition although it has been brought about by a process which is not demonstrably a physical one but lies in the mental or nervous system. The second form is psychiatric illness itself which is brought about by mental or emotional stresses, i.e. by a psychiatric route. . . . I am therefore of opinion that any driver of a car should reasonably foresee that, if he drives carelessly, he will be liable to cause injury, either physical or psychiatric or both, to other users of the highway who become involved in an accident. Therefore he owes to such persons a duty of care to avoid such injury. In the present case the defendant could not foresee the exact type of psychiatric damage in fact suffered by the plaintiff who, due to his M.E., was ‘an eggshell personality’ but that is of no significance since the defendant did owe a duty of care to prevent foreseeable damage, including psychiatric damage. Once such a duty of care is established, the defendant must take the plaintiff as he finds him.’

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Ackner
Gazette 14-Jun-1995, Independent 12-May-1995, Times 12-May-1995, (1995) 92 LSG 33, [1995] RTR 210, [1996] AC 155, [1995] 2 All ER 736, [1995] UKHL 7, [1995] PIQR P329, [1995] 2 WLR 644, [1995] 2 Lloyds Rep 95
England and Wales
Appeal fromPage v Smith CA 4-May-1994
The plaintiff was driving his car at 30 miles an hour when the defendant turned right immediately into his path. In the accident both cars suffered damage but the occupants all escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff, however, had suffered for 20 . .
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 . .
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 . .

Cited by:
CitedKeen v Tayside Contracts OHCS 26-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages for post traumatic stress disorder. He was a road worker instructed to attend by the defendant immediately after a terrible accident.
Held: It was a classic case of nervous shock. He was not a rescuer, and nor had . .
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 . .
CitedGogay v Hertfordshire County Council CA 26-Jul-2000
The employee sought damages for breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, even though she remained throughout the employment of the Council against whom she was bringing proceedings.
Held: Her remaining in employment was a factor . .
CitedDunnachie v Kingston Upon Hull City Council; Williams v Southampton Institute; Dawson v Stonham Housing Association EAT 8-Apr-2003
EAT Unfair Dismissal – Compensation
In each case, The employee sought additional damages for non-economic loss after an unfair dismissal.
Held: The Act could be compared with the Discrimination Acts . .
RegrettedWhite, Frost and others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others HL 3-Dec-1998
No damages for Psychiatric Harm Alone
The House considered claims by police officers who had suffered psychiatric injury after tending the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Held: The general rules restricting the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric harm applied to the . .
AppliedA and Another v Essex County Council CA 17-Dec-2003
The claimant sought damages. The respondent had acted as an adoption agency but had failed to disclose all relevant information about the child.
Held: Any such duty extended only during the period where the child was with the prospective . .
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.
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 . .
CitedDonachie v The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police CA 7-Apr-2004
The claimant had been asked to work under cover. The surveillance equipment he was asked to use was faulty, requiring him to put himself at risk repeatedly to maintain it resulting in a stress disorder and a stroke.
Held: There was a direct . .
CitedNobes, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Schofield CA 14-May-1998
A police constable was entitled to claim damages for nervous shock after a co-officer unexpectedly and unlawfully fired off shots from a gun they had found as part of a search. . .
CitedBici and Bici v Ministry of Defence QBD 7-Apr-2004
Claimants sought damages for personal injuries incurred when, in Pristina, Kosovo and during a riot, British soldiers on a UN peacekeeping expedition fired on a car.
Held: The incidents occurred in the course of peace-keeping duties. It was . .
CitedEastwood and another v Magnox Electric plc; McCabe v Cornwall County Council and others HL 15-Jul-2004
The first claimants were long standing employees. Mr Eastwood fell out with his manager, who disciplined him using false statements. When Williams refused to provide a false statement he too was disciplined. Each claimed damages for the injury to . .
CitedRothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd and Another CA 26-Jan-2006
Each claimant sought damages after being exposed to asbestos dust. The defendants resisted saying that the injury alleged, the development of pleural plaques, was yet insufficient as damage to found a claim.
Held: (Smith LJ dissenting) The . .
CriticisedWhite, Frost and others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others HL 3-Dec-1998
No damages for Psychiatric Harm Alone
The House considered claims by police officers who had suffered psychiatric injury after tending the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Held: The general rules restricting the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric harm applied to the . .
CitedCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd CA 31-Mar-2006
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 . .
CitedFrench and others v Chief Constable of Sussex Police CA 28-Mar-2006
The claimants sought damages for psychiatric injury. They were police officers who had been subject to unsuccessful proceedings following a shooting of a member of the public by their force.
Held: The claim failed: ‘these claimants have no . .
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 . .
CitedCalvert v William Hill Credit Ltd ChD 12-Mar-2008
The claimant said that the defendant bookmakers had been negligent in allowing him to continue betting when they should have known that he was acting under an addiction. The defendant company had a policy for achieving responsible gambling, . .
CitedCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd HL 27-Feb-2008
The claimant’s husband had committed suicide. She sought damages for financial loss from his former employers under the 1976 Act. He had suffered a severe and debilitating injury working for them leading to his depression and suicide. The employers . .
CitedFlood v The University Court of the University of Glasgow OHCS 8-Jul-2008
The pursuer, a college lecturer claimed damages for stress related injury suffered as a result of overwork. She had communicated with her managers many times about the overload. Other staff had resigned for similar reasons.
Held: The pursuer . .
CitedTaylor v A Novo (UK) Ltd CA 18-Mar-2013
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 . .
CitedPaul and Another v The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust QBD 4-Jun-2020
Nervous shock – liability to third parties
The claimants witnessed the death of their father from a heart attack. They said that the defendant’s negligent treatment allowed the attack to take place. Difficult point of law about the circumstances in which a defendant who owes a duty of care . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Damages

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.84536