The immediate aftermath of a fatal road accident in which the claimant's daughter was killed extended from the moment of the accident until the moment the claimant left the mortuary; the recorder had artificially separated the mortuary visit, which was not merely to identify the body but also to complete the story so far as the claimant was concerned.Claimant's appeal from the decision of Mr Recorder Woods on 28 March 2002 at Central London County Court dismissing her claim for damages for nervous shock. The appellant's ('M') daughter ('L') had been severely injured when she was hit by a car, and died shortly afterwards at 7.40 pm. M arrived at the police cordon on the road while she was looking for L, who was late returning home. M tried to cross the cordon and was told by a police officer that L was dead. That evening, M visited the mortuary at 9.15 pm, and when L's father confirmed to M that the body was that of L, M fell to her knees and sobbed uncontrollably. M saw L's face and head, which were disfigured. M suffered an extreme reaction and psychiatric condition. The expert evidence before the recorder was that the circumstances surrounding L's death made a material contribution to the psychiatric illness M suffered. The recorder found as follows: (i) on the basis of the authorities of McLoughlin v O'Brian (1983) 1 AC 410 and Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire police (1992) 1 AC 310, M could not succeed as there could be no claim based on shock caused by being told of death; (ii) the events at the mortuary were not part of the immediate aftermath of the accident; (iii) the shock that caused the psychiatric disorder resulted solely from what M had been told by the police officer at the cordon; and (iv) the shock M suffered was the inevitable reaction to the fact that L was dead, and the fact that M was told of the death at the scene rather than elsewhere had not materially contributed to the psychiatric disorder. M argued as follows: (a) the recorder had taken too restrictive an approach to what constituted events giving rise to the shock, and the whole of what M had seen and was told caused her psychiatric disorder such that the recorder was wrong to exclude consideration of what had happened at the mortuary in determining whether M was entitled to damages; and (b) there was no evidence to support the recorder's finding that the psychiatric illness suffered occurred solely due to what M had been told.HELD: (1) An event might be made up of a number of components, as was accepted in North Glamorgan NHS Trust v Ceri Ann Walters (2002) EWCA Civ 1792. Provided events retained sufficient proximity to the event, they could be considered to be in the aftermath. The immediate aftermath in the present case extended from the moment of the accident until the moment M left the mortuary. The recorder had artificially separated the mortuary visit, which was not merely to identify the body but also to complete the story so far as M was concerned. (2) The recorder's conclusions could not be supported on the evidence. The evidence did not support the proposition that M would have suffered psychiatric illness in any event.Appeal allowed.

[2003] EWCA Civ 697

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar