Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED July 30, 2003

The claimant had an arguable claim for psychiatric injury which should proceed to trial for a full determination of the legal issues involved.Appeal from High Court Master's decision allowing the claimant ('H') to bring a claim for damages for psychiatric damage against the defendant ('T'). H was employed by T as a manager of senior train drivers. On 5 October 1999 there was a serious train accident in Paddington which resulted in a number of fatalities. H was requested by T to attend the scene of the accident on 6 October as T's representative. H had to enter into burnt out carriages and was required to view corpses. H alleged that as a result of what he saw, he developed depression coupled with a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. H submitted that T owed him a duty as an employer not to expose him to physical injury that was reasonably foreseeable and it did not matter whether the injury was physical or mental. H submitted that his case was analogous to Walker v Northumberland County Council (1995) 1 All ER 737 and that T was liable for the psychiatric damage he had suffered as a result of being required to attend the aftermath of the train accident at Paddington. T submitted that: (i) the injuries suffered by H were not foreseeable; (ii) H was unable to prove that they were caused by T's negligence; and (iii) H had not passed the control mechanisms applicable to psychiatric injury contained in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (1992) 1 AC 310. T also submitted that the law relating to psychiatric injury as it had recently developed in Frost v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (1999) 2 AC 455 and in particular in Keen v. Tayside Contracts (2003) ScotCS 55 (26 February 2003) meant that H's claim was bound to fail.HELD: The High Court Master was correct to allow the claim to proceed. The law relating to psychiatric injury was still being developed. It was open to a trial judge to decide whether he preferred the approach taken in Walker (supra) or that contained in Keen (supra) as there was nothing to indicate that Walker was bad law. The facts of the present case were such that the claimant had an arguable case and his claim was not bound to fail.Appeal dismissed.