Shorter v Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust: QBD 25 Mar 2015

The claimant saw her sister in undeniably distressing circumstances in hospital. It was suggested that the claimant’s professional background, as a radiographer, gave her an unusual degree of insight into her sister’s medical condition and that, as a result, she would have been more sensitive to events at the hospital and therefore more likely to find them ‘horrifying’.
Held: Swift DBE J said: ‘ . . it seems to me that it is necessary to be cautious in finding that the Claimant’s professional expertise made the sight of Mrs Sharma more ‘horrifying’ than it would have been to a person without that knowledge. I consider that the ‘event’ must be one which would be recognised as ‘horrifying’ by a person of ordinary susceptibility; in other words, by objective standards. After all, certain people would find it more frightening to have no medical knowledge and not to know what was going on; they may feel helpless and isolated. Others may have armed themselves in advance with medical information from the internet which leads them to feel far greater fear than is in fact justified. It would be unfortunate if secondary victims’ claims were to become embroiled in debates about an individual claimant’s level of medical knowledge and its effects upon whether an ‘event’ should be classified as ‘horrifying’.’
Swift DBE J
[2015] EWHC 614 (QB)
England and Wales
CitedTaylor v Somerset Health Authority 1993
The plaintiff’s husband had suffered a heart attack at work and soon died at the defendant’s hospital. She went to the hospital within an hour and was told of his death by a doctor about 20 minutes after her arrival. She was shocked and distressed. . .

Cited by:
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 . .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 14 May 2021; Ref: scu.544846