Psychiatric claims by secondary victims, following clinical negligence affecting the primary victim

  • FOIL

Three appeals raised the question of the circumstances in which a defendant to a clinical negligence claim could be held liable for psychiatric injury (or what used to be called nervous shock) caused to a close relative of the primary victim of that negligence. The basic facts in each of the cases were that the defendant was alleged to have failed to diagnose the primary victim's life-threatening condition. Sometime after that negligent omission, the primary victim suffered a traumatic death. In two of the cases the shocking death occurred in the presence of the close relatives, causing them psychiatric injury. In the other, the close relative came upon the primary victim immediately after her death, again causing her (the mother in that case) psychiatric injury. The question in each case was whether the necessary legal proximity existed between the defendant and the close relative (often referred to as the secondary victim).


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