Wilkinson v Downton; 8 May 1997

References: [1897] 2 QB 57, [1897] EWHC 1 (QB)
Links: Bailii
Coram: RS Wright J
Ratio: Thomas Wilkinson, the landlord of a public house, went off by train, leaving his wife Lavinia behind the bar. A customer of the pub, Downton played a practical joke on her. He told her, falsely, that her husband had been involved in an accident and was seriously injured. Mr Wilkinson returned safely by train later that evening, but the effect on Mrs Wilkinson had been dramatic. Her hair had turned white, and she became so ill that for some time her life was thought in danger. The jury awarded her £100 for nervous shock, and the question for the judge on further consideration was whether she had a cause of action.
Held: Distinguishing Coultas, Downton was not merely negligent but had intended to cause injury. As what he said could not fail to produce grave effects ‘upon any but an exceptionally indifferent person’, an intention to cause such effects should be imputed to him. ‘The defendant has, as I assume for the moment, wilfully done an act calculated to cause physical harm to the plaintiff-that is to say, to infringe her legal right to personal safety, and has in fact thereby caused physical harm to her. That proposition without more appears to me to state a good cause of action, there being no justification alleged for the act. This wilful injuria is in law malicious, although no malicious purpose to cause the harm which was caused nor any motive of spite is imputed to the defendant . . One question is whether the defendant’s act was so plainly calculated to produce some effect of the kind which was produced that an intention to produce it ought to be imputed to the defendant, regard being had to the fact that the effect was produced on a person proved to be in an ordinary state of health and mind.’
This case cites:

  • Distinguished – Victorian Railway Commissioners v Coultas PC ((1888) 13 App Cas 222, Bailii, [1888] UKPC 3)
    (Victoria) The appellant’s gatekeeper had negligently invited the plaintiffs to cross a railway line as a train approached. There was no collision, but the plaintiff sought damages for physical and mental injuries from shock.
    Held: The . .

(This list may be incomplete)
This case is cited by:

  • Limited – The Home Office v Mary Jane Wainwright, Alan Joseph Wainwright CA (Times 04-Jan-02, Gazette 27-Feb-02, Bailii, [2001] EWCA Civ 2081, [2002] QB 1334)
    The claimants were awarded damages, following the way they were searched on seeking to enter prison on a visit. The Home Office appealed. They were asked to sign a consent form, but only after the search was nearly complete. They were told the . .
  • Cited – Wong v Parkside Health NHS Trust and Another CA (Times 07-Dec-01, Gazette 10-Jan-02, Bailii, [2001] EWCA Civ 1721, [2003] 3 All ER 932)
    The claimant had sued her former employer for post-traumatic stress resulting from alleged harassment at her place of work. The claimant appealed against an order refusing damages. The court had held that outside the 1997 Act which was not in force . .
  • Distinguished – Wainwright and another v Home Office HL (House of Lords, [2003] UKHL 53, Bailii, Times 20-Oct-03, [2003] 3 WLR 1137, 2004] 2 AC 406)
    The claimant and her son sought to visit her other son in Leeds Prison. He was suspected of involvement in drugs, and therefore she was subjected to strip searches. There was no statutory support for the search. The son’s penis had been touched . .
  • Followed – Janvier v Sweeney ([1919] 2 KB 316)
    During the First World War Mlle Janvier lived as a paid companion in a house in Mayfair and corresponded with her German lover who was interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man. Sweeney was a private detective who wanted secretly to obtain some . .
  • Cited – AB and others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust QBD ([2004] EWHC 644 (QB), Bailii, Times 12-Apr-04, (2004) 77 BMLR 145, [2004] 2 FLR 365, [2004] 3 FCR 324, [2004] Fam Law 501, [2005] 2 WLR 358, [2005] Lloyd’s Rep Med 1, [2005] QB 50)
    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.
  • Cited – Hunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd HL (Gazette 14-May-97, Times 25-Apr-97, Bailii, [1997] UKHL 14, [1997] AC 655, [1997] Fam Law 601, [1997] 2 All ER 426, [1997] 2 FLR 342, [1997] 2 WLR 684, [1997] Env LR 488, [1997] 54 Con LR 12, [1997] 84 BLR 1, [1997] CLC 1045, (1998) 30 HLR 409)
    The claimant, in a representative action complained that the works involved in the erection of the Canary Wharf tower constituted a nuisance in that the works created substantial clouds of dust and the building blocked her TV signals, so as to limit . .
  • No part in current law – Bici and Bici v Ministry of Defence QBD ([2004] EWHC 786(QB), Bailii, Times 11-Jun-04)
    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 . .
  • Cited – C v D QBD (Bailii, [2006] EWHC 166 (QB))
    The claimant sought damages against the defendant and the school at which he was taught alleging that he had been sexually abused. The allegations were denied. . .
  • Cited – OPO v MLA and Another QBD (Bailii, [2014] EWHC 2468 (QB))
    A boy now sought an interim injunction to restrain his father, the defendant classical musician, from publishing his autobiography which mentioned him. The book would say that the father had suffered sexual abuse as a child at school.
    Held: . .
  • Cited – Rhodes v OPO and Another SC ([2015] 2 WLR 137, Bailii, [2015] UKSC 32, [2016] AC 219, [2015] EMLR 20, [2015] HRLR 11, [2015] WLR(D) 227, [2015] 4 All ER 1, WLRD, Bailii Summary, UKSC 2014/0251, SC, SC Summary, SC Video Summary)
    The mother sought to prevent a father from publishing a book about his life. It was to contain passages she said may cause psychological harm to their 12 year old son. Mother and son lived in the USA and the family court here had no jurisdiction to . .
  • Cited – OPO v MLA and Another CA (Bailii, [2014] EWCA Civ 1277, [2014] WLR(D) 422, WLRD)
    The claimant child sought to prevent publication by his father of an autobiography which, he said, would be likely to cause him psychological harm. The father was well known classical musician who said that he had himself suffered sexual abuse as a . .
  • Cited – Stevenson v Basham ([1922] NZLR 225)
    (New Zealand) The defendant made a threat to the plaintiff’s husband inside the house that she and her husband were occupying to burn it down, the threat being overheard by her when she was in a bedroom where she was lying and when she was pregnant . .
  • Cited – Hambrook v Stokes Brothers CA ([1925] 1 KB 141)
    The defendant’s employee left a lorry at the top of a steep narrow street unattended, with the engine running and without having taken proper steps to secure it. The lorry ran violently down the hill. The plaintiff’s wife had been walking up the . .
  • Cited – Bunyan v Jordan ((1937) 57 CLR 1, [1937] HCA 5, Austlii, [1937] ALR 204)
    (High Court of Australia) The plaintiff sought damages having been put to severe fright by a short fired by her employer, the defendant. . .
  • Cited – Rahemtulla v Vanfed Credit Union ([1984] 3 WWR 296)
    (British Columbia Supreme Court) The plaintiff had been harassed at work, falsely accused of theft in threatening circumstances and summarily dismissed without proper cause in a humiliating fashion. The defendant submitted that to be liable for . .
  • Cited – Bradley v Wingnut Films Ltd ([1993] 1 NZLR 415)
    (New Zealand) . .

(This list may be incomplete)

Last Update: 28-Jul-16
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