Taylor 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 claimant, her daughter witnessed the death, but not the accident, and herself suffered post traumatic stress disorder. The court was asked whether any claim could be sustained, and answered that she could. The employer now appealed.
Held: The appeal succeeded: ‘the judge was wrong to hold that the death of Mrs Taylor was the relevant ‘event’ for the purposes of deciding the proximity question. A paradigm example of the kind of case in which a claimant can recover damages as a secondary victim is one involving an accident which (i) more or less immediately causes injury or death to a primary victim and (ii) is witnessed by the claimant. In such a case, the relevant event is the accident. It is not a later consequence of the accident.’
Lord Dyson MR said: ‘to succeed, Ms Taylor must show that there was a relationship of proximity between Novo and herself. The word ‘proximity’ has been used in two distinct senses in the cases. The first is a legal term of great importance in the law of negligence generally. It is used as shorthand for Lord Atkin’s famous neighbour principle. Used in this sense, it is a legal concept which is distinct from and narrower than reasonable foreseeability. It describes the relationship between parties which is necessary in order to found a duty of care owed by one to the other. . . But in secondary victim cases, the word ‘proximity’ is also used in a different sense to mean physical proximity in time and space to an event. Used in this sense, it serves the purpose of being one of the control mechanisms which, as a matter of policy, the law has introduced in order to limit the number of persons who can claim damages for psychiatric injury as secondary victims or to put it in legal terms, to denote whether there is a relationship of proximity between the parties. In a secondary victim case, physical proximity to the event is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of legal proximity.’ It was the legal sense of proximity which applied here.

Lord Dyson MR, Moore-Bick, Kitchin LJJ
[2013] EWCA Civ 194, [2013] 3 WLR 989, [2013] Med LR 100, [2013] PIQR P15, [2013] WLR(D) 119, [2014] Ch 150, [2014] 1 QB 150
Bailii, WLRD
England and Wales
CitedDonoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson HL 26-May-1932
Decomposed Snail in Ginger Beer Bottle – Liability
The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a . .
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 . .
CitedMcLoughlin 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 . .
CitedJaensch v Coffey 20-Aug-1984
(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 . .
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. . .
CitedSion v Hampstead Health Authority CA 27-May-1994
An amendment to pleadings was allowed after the limitation period had expired in order to add a claim based on the same facts. The claim was brought by the father of a young man injured in a motor cycle accident. For fourteen days the father stayed . .
CitedPage 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 . .
CitedWhite, 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 . .
CitedW v Essex County Council and Another HL 17-Mar-2000
A foster child was placed with a family. The child had a history of abusing other children, but the foster parents, who had other children were not told. The foster child caused psychiatric damage to the carers.
Held: It was wrong to strike . .
CitedNorth Glamorgan NHS Trust v Walters CA 6-Dec-2002
A new mother woke in hospital to see her baby (E) fitting. E suffered a major epileptic seizure leading to coma and irreparable brain damage. E was transferred to a London hospital and the following day the claimant was told by a consultant that E’s . .
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 . .

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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.471877