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You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> United Kingdom House of Lords Decisions >> McLoughlin v O'Brian [1982] UKHL 3 (06 May 1982)
Cite as: [1983] AC 410, [1982] 2 WLR 982, [1982] UKHL 3, [1983] 1 AC 410, [1982] 2 All ER 298

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    Parliamentary Archives,

    Die Jovis 6° Maii 1982

    Upon Reoort from the Appellate Committee to whom
    was referred the Cause McLoughlin (Married Woman)
    (Assisted Person) against O'Brian and others, That the
    Committee had heard Counsel as well on Monday the
    15th as on Tuesday the 16th and Wednesday the 17th
    days of February last upon the Petition and Appeal of
    Rosina McLoughlin of 20 Town Close, Sawston,
    Cambridgeshire praying that the matter of the Order
    set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely an Order of
    Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 16th day of
    December 1980 except as far as regards the words
    "The Plaintiffs costs be taxed in accordance with the
    provisions of the Second Schedule to the Legal Aid
    Act 1974 " might be reviewed before Her Majesty the
    Queen in Her Court of Parliament and that the said
    Order so far as aforesaid might be reversed, varied or
    altered or that the Petitioner might have such other
    relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen in
    Her Court of Parliament might seem meet; as also
    upon the Case of Thomas Alan O'Brian, A. E. Docker
    & Sons Limited, Raymond Sygrove and Ernest Doe &
    Sons Limited lodged in answer to the said Appeal;
    and due consideration had this day of what was offered
    on either side in this Cause:

    It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual
    and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her
    Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order
    of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 16th day of
    December 1980 in part complained of in the said
    Appeal be, and the same is hereby, Set Aside and that
    it be Declared that the Appellant is entitled to recover
    damages from the Respondents in respect of such
    injuries or illness as she may prove to have suffered
    in consequence of the circumstances pleaded in
    paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Amended Statement of
    Claim: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondents
    do pay or cause to be paid to the said Appellant the
    Costs incurred by her in the Courts below and also the
    Costs incurred by her in respect of the said Appeal to
    this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs
    to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments if not
    agreed between the parties: And it is further Ordered
    that the Appellant's Costs in this House be taxed in
    accordance with the provisions of Schedule 2 to the
    Legal Aid Act 1974: And it is also further Ordered,
    That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted
    back to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court
    of Justice to do therein as shall be just and consistent
    with this Judgment.





    Lord Wilberforce
    Lord Edmund-Davies
    Lord Russell of Killowen
    Lord Scarman
    Lord Bridge of Harwich

    Lord Wilberforce

    my lords,

    This appeal arises from a very serious and tragic road accident which
    occurred on 19th October 1973 near Withersfield, Suffolk. The appellant's
    husband, Thomas McLoughlin, and three of her children, George, aged 17,
    Kathleen, aged 7 and Gillian, nearly 3, were in a Ford motor car: George
    was driving. A fourth child, Michael, then aged 11, was a passenger in a
    following motor car driven by Mr. Pilgrim: this car did not become involved
    in the accident. The Ford car was in collision with a lorry driven by the
    first respondent and owned by the second respondent. That lorry had been
    in collision with another lorry driven by the third respondent and owned
    by the fourth respondent. It is admitted that the accident to the Ford car
    was caused by the respondents' negligence. It is necessary to state what
    followed in full detail.

    As a result of the accident, the appellant's husband suffered bruising and
    shock; George suffered injuries to his head and face, cerebral concussion,
    fractures of both scapulae and bruising and abrasions; Kathleen suffered
    concussion, fracture of the right clavicle, bruising, abrasions and shock;
    Gillian was so seriously injured that she died almost immediately.

    At the time, the appellant was at her home about two miles away; an hour
    or so afterwards the accident was reported to her by Mr. Pilgrim, who told
    her that he thought George was dying, and that he did not know the
    whereabouts of her husband or the condition of her daughter. He then
    drove her to Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge. There she saw Michael,
    who told her that Gillian was dead. She was taken down a corridor and
    through a window she saw Kathleen, crying, with her face cut and
    begrimed with dirt and oil. She could hear George shouting and screaming.
    She was taken to her husband who was sitting with his head in his hands.
    His shirt was hanging off him and he was covered in mud and oil. He saw
    the appellant and started sobbing. The appellant was then taken to see
    George. The whole of his left face and left side was covered. He appeared
    to recognise the appellant and then lapsed into unconsciousness. Finally,
    the appellant was taken to Kathleen who by now had been cleaned up.
    The child was too upset to speak and simply clung to her mother. There
    can be no doubt that these circumstances, witnessed by the appellant, were
    distressing in the extreme and were capable of producing an effect going
    well beyond that of grief and sorrow.

    The appellant subsequently brought proceedings against the respondents.
    At the trial, the judge assumed, for the purpose of enabling him to decide
    the issue of legal liability, that the appellant subsequently suffered the
    condition of which she complained. This was described as severe shock,
    organic depression and a change of personality. Numerous symptoms of a
    physiological character are said to have been manifested. The details
    were not investigated at the trial, the court being asked to assume that the
    appellant's condition had been caused or contributed to by shock, as distinct
    from grief or sorrow, and that the appellant was a person of reasonable

    On these facts, or assumed facts, the trial judge (Boreham J.) gave
    judgment for the respondents holding, in a most careful judgment reviewing
    the authorities, that the respondents owed no duty of care to the appellant
    because the possibility of her suffering injury by nervous shock, in the
    circumstances, was not reasonably foreseeable.


    On appeal by the appellant, the judgment of Boreham J. was upheld,
    but not on the same ground. Stephenson L.J. took the view that the
    possibility of injury to the appellant by nervous shock was reasonably
    foreseeable and that the respondents owed the appellant a duty of care.
    However, he held that considerations of policy prevented the appellant from
    recovering. Griffiths L.J. held that injury by nervous shock to the appellant
    was " readily foreseeable " but that the respondents owed no duty of care
    to the appellant. The duty was limited to those on the road nearby.
    Cumming-Bruce L.J. agreed with both judgments. The appellant now
    appeals to this House. The critical question to be decided is whether a
    person in the position of the appellant, i.e. one who was not present at the
    scene of grievous injuries to her family but who comes upon those injuries
    at an interval of time and space, can recover damages for nervous shock.

    Although we continue to use the hallowed expression " nervous shock ",
    English law, and common understanding, have moved some distance since
    recognition was given to this symptom as a basis for liability. Whatever
    is unknown about the mind-body relationship (and the area of ignorance
    seems to expand with that of knowledge), it is now accepted by medical
    science that recognisable and severe physical damage to the human body
    and system may be caused by the impact, through the senses, of external
    events on the mind. There may thus be produced what is as identifiable
    an illness as any that may be caused by direct physical impact. It is safe
    to say that this, in general terms, is understood by the ordinary man or
    woman who is hypothesised by the courts in situations where claims for
    negligence are made. Although in the only case which has reached this
    House (Bourhill v. Young [19431 A.C. 92) a claim for damages in respect
    of " nervous shock" was rejected on its facts, the House gave clear
    recognition to the legitimacy, in principle, of claims of that character. As
    the result of that and other cases, assuming that they are accepted as
    correct, the following position has been reached:

    1. While damages cannot, at common law, be awarded for grief and
      sorrow, a claim for damages for " nervous shock " caused by negligence
      can be made without the necessity of showing direct impact or fear of
      immediate personal injuries for oneself. The reservation made by
      Kennedy J. in Dulieu v. White & Sons [1901] 2 KB 669, though taken
      up by Sargant L.J. in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros. [1925] 1 K.B. 141, has
      not gained acceptance, and although the respondents, in the courts below,
      reserved their right to revive it, they did not do so in argument. I think
      that it is now too late to do so. The arguments on this issue were fully
      and admirably stated by the Supreme Court of California in Dillon v.
      Legg (1968) 29 A.L.R. 3rd, 130.

    2. A plaintiff may recover damages for " nervous shock " brought
      on by injury caused not to him or herself but to a near relative, or by
      the fear of such injury. So far (subject to 5 below), the cases do not
      extend beyond the spouse or children of the plaintiff (Hambrook v. Stokes,
      U.S., Boardman v. Sanderson [1964] 1 WLR 1317. Hinz v. Berry
      [1970] 2 Q.B. 40—including foster children—(where liability was assumed)
      and see King v. Phillips [1953] 1 Q.B. 429).

    3. Subject to the next paragraph, there is no English case in which
      a plaintiff has been able to recover nervous shock damages where the
      injury to the near relative occurred out of sight and earshot of the
      plaintiff. In Hambrook v. Stokes an express distinction was made
      between shock caused by what the mother saw with her own eyes and
      what she might have been told by bystanders, liability being excluded
      in the latter case.

    4. An exception from, or I would prefer to call it an extension of.
      the latter case, has been made where the plaintiff does not see or hear
      the incident but comes upon its immediate aftermath. In Boardman v.
      Sanderson the father was within earshot of the accident to his child
      and likely to come upon the scene: he did so and suffered damage from
      what he then saw. In Marshall v. Lionel Enterprises [1972] 2 Ontario


    Reports 117, the wife came immediately upon the badly injured body
    of her husband. And in Benson v. Lee [1972] V.R. 789, a situation
    existed with some similarity to the present case. The mother was in
    her home one hundred yards away, and, on communication by a third
    party, ran out to the scene of the accident and there suffered shock.
    Your Lordships have to decide whether or not to validate these extensions.

    5. A remedy on account of nervous shock has been given to a man
    who came upon a serious accident involving numerous people immediately
    thereafter and acted as a rescuer of those involved (Chadwick v. British
    Railways Board
    [1967] 1 W.L.R. 912). " Shock " was caused neither
    by fear for himself nor fear or horror on account of a near relative.
    The principle of " rescuer " cases was not challenged by the respondents
    and ought, in my opinion, to be accepted. But we have to consider
    whether, and how far, it can be applied to such cases as the present.

    Throughout these developments, as can be seen, the courts have proceeded
    in the traditional manner of the common law from case to case, upon a
    basis of logical necessity. If a mother, with or without accompanying
    children, could recover on account of fear for herself, how can she be
    denied recovery on account of fear for her accompanying children? If a
    father could recover had he seen his child run over by a backing car, how
    can he be denied recovery if he is in the immediate vicinity and runs to
    the child's assistance? If a wife and mother could recover if she had
    witnessed a serious accident to her husband and children, does she fail
    because she was a short distance away and immediately rushes to the
    scene? (cf. Benson v. Lee, U.S.). I think that unless the law is to draw
    an arbitrary line at the point of direct sight and sound, these arguments
    require acceptance of the extension mentioned above under 4 in the
    interests of justice.

    If one continues to follow the process of logical progression, it is hard
    to see why the present plaintiff also should not succeed. She was not
    present at the accident, but she came very soon after upon its aftermath.
    If, from a distance of some 100 yards (cf. Benson v. Lee) she had found
    her family by the roadside, she would have come within principle 4 above.
    Can it make any difference that she comes upon them in an ambulance,
    or, as here, in a nearby hospital, when, as the evidence shows, they were
    in the same condition, covered with oil and mud, and distraught with
    pain? If Mr. Chadwick can recover when, acting in accordance with
    normal and irresistible human instinct, and indeed moral compulsion, he
    goes to the scene of an accident, may not a mother recover if. acting under
    the same motives, she goes to where her family can be found?

    I could agree that a line can be drawn above her case with less hardship
    than would have been apparent in Boardman's and Hinz's cases, but so
    to draw it would not appeal to most people's sense of justice. To allow
    her claim may be, I think it is, upon the margin of what the process of
    logical progression would allow. But where the facts are strong and
    exceptional, and, as I think, fairly analogous, her case ought, prima facie,
    to be assimilated to those which have passed the test.

    To argue from one factual situation to another and to decide by analogy is
    a natural tendency of the human and the legal mind. But the lawyer still
    has to enquire whether, in so doing, he has crossed some critical line behind
    which he ought to stop. That is said to be the present case. The reasoning
    by which the Lords Justices decided not to grant relief to the plaintiff is
    instructive. Both Stephenson L.J. and Griffiths L.J. accepted that the
    " shock" to the plaintiff was foreseeable; but from this, at least in
    presentation, they diverge. Stephenson L.J. considered that the defendants
    owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, but that for reasons of policy the law
    should stop short of giving her damages: it should limit relief to those on
    or near the highway at or near the time of the accident caused by the
    defendants' negligence. He was influenced by the fact that the courts of
    this country, and of other common law jurisdictions, had stopped at this
    point: it was indicated by the barrier of commercial sense and practical


    convenience. Griffiths L.J. took the view that although the injury to the
    plaintiff was foreseeable, there was no duty of care. The duty of care of
    drivers of motor vehicles was, according to decided cases, limited to persons
    and owners of property on the road or near to it who might be directly
    affected. The line should be drawn at this point. It was not even in the
    interest of those suffering from shock as a class to extend the scope of
    the defendants' liability: to do so would quite likely delay their recovery
    by immersing them in the anxiety of litigation.

    I am deeply impressed by both of these arguments, which I have only
    briefly summarised. Though differing in expression, in the end, in my
    opinion, the two presentations rest upon a common principle, namely that,
    at the margin, the boundaries of a man's responsibility for acts of negligence
    have to be fixed as a matter of policy. Whatever is the correct
    jurisprudential analysis, it does not make any essential difference whether
    one says, with Stephenson L.J., that there is a duty but, as a matter of policy,
    the consequences of breach of it ought to be limited at a certain point, or
    whether, with Griffiths L.J., one says that the fact that consequences may be
    foreseeable does not automatically impose a duty of care, does not do so
    in fact where policy indicates the contrary. This is an approach which one
    can see very clearly from the way in which Lord Atkin stated the neighbour
    principle in Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562, 580:

    " Persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that
    " I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so
    " affected ".

    This is saying that foreseeability must be accompanied and limited by the
    law's judgment as to persons who ought, according to its standards of
    value or justice, to have been in contemplation. Foreseeability, which
    involves a hypothetical person, looking with hindsight at an event which
    has occurred, is a formula adopted by English law, not merely for defining,
    but also for limiting the persons to whom duty may be owed, and the
    consequences for which an actor may be held responsible. It is not merely
    an issue of fact to be left to be found as such. When it is said to result
    in a duty of care being owed to a person or a class, the statement that
    there is a " duty of care " denotes a conclusion into the forming of which
    considerations of policy have entered. That foreseeability does not of
    itself, and automatically, lead to a duty of care is, I think, clear. 1 gave
    some examples in Anns v. Merton London Borough [1978] AC 728, 752,
    Anns itself being one. I may add what Lord Reid said in McKew v.
    Holland & Hannen & Cubitts, " A defender is not liable for a consequence
    " of a kind which is not foreseeable. But it does not follow that he is liable
    " for every consequence which a reasonable man could foresee." [1969]
    3 All E.R. 1621, 1623.

    We must then consider the policy arguments. In doing so we must bear
    in mind that cases of " nervous shock " and the possibility of claiming
    damages for it, are not necessarily confined to those arising out of accidents
    in public roads. To state, therefore, a rule that recoverable damages must
    be confined to persons on or near the highway is to state not a principle
    in itself, but only an example of a more general rule that recoverable
    damages must be confined to those within sight and sound of an event caused
    by negligence or, at least, to those in close, or very close, proximity to such
    a situation.

    The policy arguments against a wider extension can be stated under
    four heads.

    First, it may be said that such extension may lead to a proliferation of
    claims, and possibly fraudulent claims, to the establishment of an industry
    of lawyers and psychiatrists who will formulate a claim for nervous shock
    damages, including what in America is called the customary miscarriage,
    for all, or many, road accidents and industrial accidents.

    Secondly, it may be claimed that an extension of liability would be unfair
    to defendants, as imposing damages out of proportion to the negligent


    conduct complained of. In so far as such defendants are insured, a large
    additional burden will be placed on insurers, and ultimately upon the class
    of persons insured—road users or employers.

    Thirdly, to extend liability beyond the most direct and plain cases would
    greatly increase evidentiary difficulties and tend to lengthen litigation.

    Fourthly, it may be said—and the Court of Appeal agreed with this—that
    an extension of the scope of liability ought only to be made by the legislature,
    after careful research. This is the course which has been taken in New
    South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

    The whole argument has been well summed up by Dean Prosser:

    " The reluctance of courts to enter this zone even where the mental
    " injury is clearly foreseeable, and the frequent mention of the
    " difficulties of proof, the facility of fraud and the problem of finding
    " a place to stop and draw the line, suggest that here it is the nature
    " of the interest invaded and the type of damages which is the real
    " obstacle " (Prosser, Law of Torts, 4th Ed. p.256).

    Since he wrote, the type of damage has, in this country at least, become
    more familiar and less deterrent to recovery. And some of the arguments
    are susceptible of answer. Fraudulent claims can be contained by the
    courts, who, also, can cope with evidentiary difficulties. The scarcity of
    cases which have occurred in the past, and the modest sums recovered,
    give some indication that fears of a flood of litigation may be exaggerated—
    experience in other fields suggests that such fears usually are. If some
    increase does occur, that may only reveal the existence of a genuine social
    need: that legislation has been found necessary in Australia may indicate
    the same thing.

    But these discounts accepted, there remains, in my opinion, just because
    " shock " in its nature is capable of affecting so wide a range of people,
    a real need for the law to place some limitation upon the extent of
    admissible claims. It is necessary to consider three elements inherent in any
    claim: the class of persons whose claims should be recognised; the proximity
    of such persons to the accident; and the means by which the shock is caused.
    As regards the class of persons, the possible range is between the closest
    of family ties—of parent and child, or husband and wife, and the ordinary
    bystander. Existing law recognises the claims of the first: it denies that of
    the second, either on the basis that such persons must be assumed to be
    possessed of fortitude sufficient to enable them to endure the calamities of
    modern life, or that defendants cannot be expected to compensate the world
    at large. In my opinion, these positions are justifiable, and since the present
    case falls within the first class, it is strictly unnecessary to say more. I
    think, however, that it should follow that other cases involving less close
    relationships must be very carefully scrutinised. I cannot say that they
    should never be admitted. The closer the tie (not merely in relationship, but
    in care) the greater the claim for consideration. The claim, in any case, has
    to be judged in the light of the other factors, such as proximity to the scene
    in time and place, and the nature of the accident.

    As regards proximity to the accident, it is obvious that this must be close
    in both time and space. It is, after all, the fact and consequence of the
    defendant's negligence that must be proved to have caused the " nervous
    " shock ". Experience has shown that to insist on direct and immediate
    sight or hearing would be impractical and unjust and that under what may
    be called the " aftermath " doctrine, one who, from close proximity comes
    very soon upon the scene, should not be excluded. In my opinion, the
    result in Benson v. Lee (u.s.) was correct and indeed inescapable. It was
    based, soundly, upon " direct perception of some of the events which go
    " to make up the accident as an entire event, and this includes ... the
    " immediate aftermath ". The High Court's majority decision in Chester v.
    Waverley Council (1939) 62 C.L.R. 1. where a child's body was found
    floating in a trench after a prolonged search, may perhaps be placed on the


    other side of a recognisable line (Evatt J. in a powerful dissent placed it on
    the same side), but in addition, I find the conclusion of Lush J. to reflect
    developments in the law.

    Finally, and by way of reinforcement of " aftermath " cases, I would
    accept, by analogy with " rescue " situations, that a person of whom it could
    be said that one could expect nothing else than that he or she would come
    immediately to the scene—normally a parent or a spouse, could be regarded
    as being within the scope of foresight and duty. Where there is not
    immediate presence, account must be taken of the possibility of alterations
    in the circumstances, for which the defendant should not be responsible.

    Subject only to these qualifications, I think that a strict test of proximity
    by sight or hearing should be applied by the courts.

    Lastly, as regards communication, there is no case in which the law
    has compensated shock brought about by communication by a third party.
    In Hambrook v. Stokes (u.s.), indeed, it was said that liability would not
    arise in such a case and this is surely right. It was so decided in Abramzik
    v. Brenner (1967) 65 D.L.R. (2nd) 651. The shock must come through sight
    or hearing of the event or of its immediate aftermath. Whether some
    equivalent of sight or hearing, e.g. through simultaneous television, would
    suffice may have to be considered.

    My Lords, I believe that these indications, imperfectly sketched, and
    certainly to be applied with common sense to individual situations in their
    entirety, represent either the existing law, or the existing law with only such
    circumstantial extension as the common law process may legitimately make.
    They do not introduce a new principle. Nor do I see any reason why the
    law should retreat behind the lines already drawn. I find on this appeal
    that the appellant's case falls within the boundaries of the law so drawn.
    1 would allow her appeal.

    Lord Edmund-Davies

    my lords,

    I am for allowing this appeal. The facts giving rise to it have been
    related in detail by my noble and learned friend, Lord Wilberforce, and
    both he and my noble and learned friend, Lord Bridge of Harwich, have
    spaciously reviewed the case law relating to the recovery of damages for
    personal injury resulting from nervous shock. My own observations can,
    in the circumstances, be substantially briefer than I had originally planned.

    It is common ground in the appeal that, the appellant's claim being
    based on shock, "... there can be no doubt since Bourhill v. Young that
    " the test of liability ... is foreseeability of injury by shock " (per Denning
    L.J., King v. Phillips, [1953] 1 Q.B. 429, at 441). But this was not always
    the law, and great confusion arose in the cases from applying to claims
    based on shock, restrictions hedging negligence actions based on the
    infliction of physical injuries. In the same year as that in which King
    v. Phillips (ibid.) was decided, Goodhart perceptively asked ((1953) 16
    M.L.R., at p.22) why it was considered that the area of possible physical
    injury should be relevant to a case based on the unlawful infliction of
    shock, and continued:

    " A woman standing at the window of a second-floor room is just
    " as likely to receive a shock when witnessing an accident as she
    " would be if she were standing on the pavement. To say that the
    " careless driver of a motor-car could not reasonably foresee such a
    " self-evident fact is to hide the truth behind a fiction which must
    " disappear as soon as we examine it. The driver obviously cannot
    " foresee that the woman at the window will receive a physical injury,
    " but it does not follow from this that he cannot foresee that she will
    " receive a shock. As the cause of action is based on shock it is only
    " foresight of shock which is relevant. "


    Indeed, in King v. Phillips itself Denning L.J. expressly held that the fact
    that the plaintiff was in an upstairs room 80 yards away from the scene
    of the accident was immaterial.

    It is true that, as Goodhart observed, in most cases the foresight concern-
    ing emotional injury and that concerning physical injury are identical,
    the shock following the physical injury, and the result was that, in the
    early development of this branch of the law, the courts tended to assume
    that this must be so in all cases. But in fact, as Goodhart laconically
    put it " The area of risk of physical injury may extend to only X yards,
    " while the area of risk of emotional injury may extend to Y yards ". That
    error still persists is indicated by the holding of Stephenson LJ. in the
    instant case that the ambit of duty of care owed by a motorist is restricted
    to persons " on or near the highway at or near the time of the accident"
    ([1981] 2 W.L.R. 1014, at 1028D), and by Griffiths L.J. to those "on the
    " road or near to it who may be directly affected by the bad driving. It
    " is not owed to those who are nowhere near the scene " (ibid., at 1037E).
    The most striking feature in the present case is that such limits on the duty
    of care were imposed notwithstanding the unanimous conclusion of the
    Court of Appeal that it was reasonably foreseeable (and even " readily "
    so in the judgment of Griffiths, L.J.) that injury by shock could be caused
    to a person in the position of the appellant.

    Similar restrictions were unsuccessfully sought to be imposed in Haynes
    v. Harwood
    [19351 1 K.B. 146, the plaintiff having been inside a police
    station when he first saw the bolting horses and therefore out of sight and
    seemingly out of danger. And they were again rejected in Chadwick v.
    British Railways Board
    [1967] 1 W.L.R. 912, where the plaintiff was in
    his home 200 yards away when the Lewisham railway accident occurred.
    Griffiths L.J. expressed himself as " quite unable to include in the category
    " of rescuers to whom a duty [of care] is owed a relative visiting victims
    " in hospital " (1036 FG). I do not share the difficulty, and in my respectful
    judgment none exists. I am here content to repeat once more the noble
    words of Cardozo J. in Wagner v. International Railways Co. (1921) 232
    N.Y. Rep. 176, at 180:

    " Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to
    " relief. The law does not ignore these reactions of the mind in
    " tracing conduct to its consequences. It recognises them as normal.
    " It places their effect within the range of the natural and probable.
    " The wrong that imperils life is a wrong to the imperilled victim;
    " it is wrong also to his rescuer."

    Was not the action of the appellant in visiting her family in hospital immedi-
    ately she heard of the accident basically indistinguishable from that of a
    "rescuer", being intent upon comforting the injured? And was not her
    action " natural and probable" in the circumstances? I regard the
    questions as capable only of affirmative answers, and, indeed, Stephenson
    L.J. so answered them (1026 AC).

    I turn to consider the sole basis upon which the Court of Appeal dismissed
    the claim, that of public policy. They did so on the grounds of what, for
    short, may be called the " floodgates " argument. Griffiths L.J. presented
    it in the following way:

    " If the [appellant's] argument is right it will certainly have far-
    " reaching consequences, for it will not only apply to road traffic
    " accidents. Whenever anybody is injured it is foreseeable that the
    " relatives will be told and will visit them in hospital, and it is further
    " foreseeable that in cases of grave injury and death some of those
    " relatives are likely to have a severe reaction causing illness. Of
    " course, the closer the relationship the more readily it is foreseeable
    " that they may be so affected, but if we just confine our consideration
    " potential liability of the tortfeasor is vastly increased if he has to
    " to parents and children and husbands and wives, it is clear that the
    " compensate the relatives as well as the immediate victims of his
    " carelessness" (1031H).


    " Every system of law must set some bounds to the consequences
    " for which a wrongdoer must make reparation. If the burden is
    " too great it cannot and will not be met, the law will fall into disrepute,
    " and it will be a disservice to those victims who might reasonably
    " have expected compensation. In any state of society it is ultimately
    " a question of policy to decide the limits of liability (1036G)."

    Stephenson LJ. expressed the same view (at 1028H) by citing his
    own observation when giving the judgment of the Court of Appeal in
    Lambert v. Lewis [1980] 2 W.L.R. 299, at 231, that "... there comes a
    " point where the logical extension of the boundaries of duty and damage
    " is halted by the barrier of commercial sense and practical convenience ".

    My Lords, the experiences of a long life in the law have made me very
    familiar with this " floodgates " argument. I do not, of course, suggest
    that it can invariably be dismissed as lacking cogency; on the contrary, it
    has to be weighed carefully, but I have often seen it disproved by later
    events. It was urged when abolition of the doctrine of common employ-
    ment was being canvassed, and it raised its head again when the abolition
    of contributory negligence as a total bar to a claim in negligence was being
    urged. And, even before my time, on the basis of conjecture later shown
    to be ill-founded it provided a fatal stumbling-block to the plaintiff's claim
    in the " shock " case of Victorian Railways Commissioners v. Coultas (1888)
    13 App Cas 222, where Sir Richard Couch sounded the "floodgates"
    alarm in stirring words which are Quoted in the speech of my noble and
    learned friend Lord Bridge of Harwich.

    My Lords, for such reasons as those developed in the speech of my
    noble and learned friend, Lord Wilberforce, and which it would serve no
    purpose for me to repeat in less felicitous words of my own, I remain
    unconvinced that the number and area of claims in " shock " cases would
    be substantially increased or enlarged were the respondents here held
    liable. It is a question which Kennedy J. answered in Dulieu v. White &
    [1901] 2 KB 669, at 681, in the following terms, which commend
    themselves strongly to me:

    " I should be sorry to adopt a rule which would bar all such claims
    " on grounds of policy alone, and in order to prevent the possible
    " success of unrighteous or groundless actions. Such a course involves
    " the denial of redress in meritorious cases, and it necessarily implies a
    " certain amount of distrust, which I do not share, in the capacity of
    " legal tribunals to get at the truth in this class of claim. "

    My Lords, in the present case two totally different points arising from the
    speeches of two of your Lordships call for further attention. Both relate
    to the Court of Appeal's invoking public policy. Unless I have completely
    misunderstood my noble and learned friend. Lord Bridge of Harwich,
    he doubts that any regard should have been had to such a consideration, and
    seemingly considered the Court of Appeal went wrong in paying any
    attention to it. The sole test of liability, I read him as saying, is the
    reasonable foreseeability of injury to the plaintiff through nervous shock
    resulting from the defendant's conceded default. And, such foreseeability
    having been established to their unanimous satisfaction, it followed that in
    law no other course was open to the Court of Appeal than to allow this
    appeal. I have respectfully to say that I cannot accept this approach. It is
    true that no decision was cited to your Lordships in which the contrary has
    been held, but that is not to say that reasonable foreseeability is the only
    test of the validity of a claim brought in negligence. If it is surmounted,
    the defendant would probably be hard put to escape liability.

    Lord Wright found it difficult to conceive that any new head of public
    policy could be discovered (Fender v. St. John-Mildmay [1938] A.C. 1, at 41),
    and, were Lord Halsbury sound in denying that any Court could invent a
    new head of policy (Jansen v. Driefontein Consolidated Mines [1902]
    A.C. 484, at 491), I should have been in the happy position of accepting the
    standpoint adopted by my noble and learned friend, Lord Bridge of


    Harwich. But, as I shall later indicate, the more recent view which has
    found favour in your Lordships' House is that public policy is not immutable.
    Accordingly, whilst I would have strongly preferred indicating with clarity
    where the limit of liability should be drawn in such cases as the present, in
    my judgment the possibility of a wholly new type of policy being raised
    renders the attainment of such finality unfortunately unattainable.

    As I think, all we can say is that any invocation of public policy calls for
    the closest scrutiny, and the defendant might well fail to discharge the
    burden of making it good, as, indeed, happened in Rondel v. Worsley [1969]
    1 A.C. 191. But that is not to say that success for the defendant would
    be unthinkable, for, in the words of MacDonald J. in Nova Mink Ltd. v.
    Trans-Canada Airlines [1951] 2 D.L.R. 241 at 254:

    "... there is always a large element of judicial policy and social
    " expediency involved in the determination of the duty-problem,
    " however it may be obscured by the use of traditional formulae ".

    I accordingly hold, as Griffiths L.J. did, that, " The test of foreseeability
    " is not a universal touchstone to determine the extent of liability for the
    " consequences of wrongdoing" (1032B). Authority for that proposition
    is both ample in quantity and exalted in status. My noble and learned
    friend. Lord Wilberforce, has already quoted in this context the observation
    of Lord Reid in McKew v. Holland & Hannen & Cubitts [1969] 3 All E.R.
    1621, at 1623, and referred to his own treatment of the topic in Anns v.
    Merton London Borough [1978] AC 728, at 752, where further citations
    are furnished. To add yet another, let me conclude by recalling that in
    Medley Byrne and Co. Ltd. v. Heller and Partners Ltd. [1964] AC 465, at
    536, Lord Pearce observed:

    " How wide the sphere of the duty of care in negligence is to be laid
    " depends ultimately upon the courts' assessment of the demands of
    " society for protection from the carelessness of others ".

    I finally turn to consider the following passage in the speech of my noble
    and learned friend, Lord Scarman:

    " Policy considerations will have to be weighed: but the objective
    " of the judges is the formulation of principle. And, if principle
    " inexorably requires a decision which entails a degree of policy risk,
    " the court's function is to adjudicate according to principle, leaving

    " policy curtailment to the judgment of Parliament . . . . . . . If

    " principle leads to results which are thought to be socially unaccept-
    " able, Parliament can legislate to draw a line or map out a new path."

    And at a later stage my noble and learned friend added,

    " Why then should not the courts draw the line, as the Court of
    " Appeal manfully tried to do in this case? Simply, because the
    " policy issue as to where to draw the line is not justiciable."

    My understanding of these words is that my noble and learned friend
    shares (though for a different reason) the conclusion of my noble and learned
    friend, Lord Bridge of Harwich, that, in adverting to public policy the Court
    of Appeal here embarked upon a sleeveless errand, for public policy has no
    relevance to liability at law. In my judgment, the proposition that "...
    " the policy issue ... is not justiciable " is as novel as it is startling. So
    novel is it in relation to this appeal that it was never mentioned during the
    hearing before your Lordships. And it is startling because in my respectful
    judgment it runs counter to well-established and wholly acceptable law.

    I restrict myself to recent decisions of your Lordships' House. In Rondel
    v. Worsley (ante), their Lordships unanimously held that public policy
    required that a barrister should be immune from an action for negligence
    in respect of his conduct and management of a case in court and the work
    preliminary thereto, Lord Reid saying (at p.228B)

    " Is it in the public interest that barristers and advocates should be
    " protected against such actions? Like so many questions which raise
    " the public interest, a decision one way will cause hardships to


    " individuals while a decision the other way will involve disadvantage
    " to the public interest ... So the issue appears to me to be whether
    " the abolition of the rule would probably be attended by such
    " disadvantage to the public interest as to make its retention clearly
    " justifiable."

    In Dorset Yacht Co. v. Home Office [1970] AC 1004 your Lordships'
    House was called upon to decide whether the English law of civil wrongs
    should be extended to impose legal liability for loss caused by conduct of
    a kind which had not hitherto been recognised by the courts as entailing
    liability. In expressing the view that it did, Lord Diplock said (at 1058D):

    " I agree with the Master of the Rolls that what we are concerned
    " with in this appeal' is ... at bottom a matter of public policy which
    " ' we as judges, must resolve ' ".

    And in British Railways Board v. Herrington [1972] AC 877, dealing with
    an occupier's duty to trespassing children, Lord Reid said (at 897C):

    " Legal principles cannot solve the problem. How far occupiers are
    " to be required by law to take steps to safeguard such children must
    " be a matter of public policy ".

    My Lords, in accordance with such a line of authorities, I hold that
    public policy issues are " justiciable". Their invocation calls for close
    scrutiny, and the conclusion may be that its nature and existence have not
    been established with the clarity and cogency required before recognition
    can be granted to any legal doctrine, and before any litigant can properly
    be deprived of what would otherwise be his manifest legal rights. Or the
    conclusion may be that adoption of the public policy relied upon would
    involve the introduction of new legal principles so fundamental that they are
    best left to the legislature; see, for example, Launchbury v. Morgans [1973]
    A.C.127, and especially Lord Pearson at 142G. And " Public policy is not
    " immutable" (per Lord Reid in Rondel v. Worsley, ante, at 227 BC).
    Indeed, Winfield described it as " necessarily variable ", and wisely added
    (1928 42 Harvard L.R., at 93):

    " This variability ... is a stone in the edifice of the doctrine, and
    " not a missile to be flung at it. Public policy would be almost useless
    " without it. The march of civilization and the difficulty of ascertaining
    " public policy at any given time make it essential . . . How is
    " public policy evidenced? If it is so variable, if it depends on the
    " welfare of the community at any given time, how are the courts to
    " ascertain it? Some judges have thought this difficulty so great that
    " ' they have urged that it would be solved much better by the legislature
    " and have considered it to be the main reason why the courts should
    " leave public policy alone . . . This admonition is a wise one and
    " judges are not likely to forget it. But the better view seems to be
    " that the difficulty of discovering what public policy is at any given
    " moment certainly does not absolve the bench from the duty of doing
    " so. The judges are bound to take notice of it and of the changes
    " which it undergoes, and it is immaterial that the question may be
    " one of ethics rather than of law."

    In the present case the Court of Appeal did just that, and in my judgment
    they were right in doing so. But they concluded that public policy required
    them to dismiss what they clearly regarded as an otherwise irrefragable
    claim. In so concluding, I respectfully hold that they were wrong, and I
    would accordingly allow the appeal.

    Lord Russell of Killowen

    my lords,

    I make two comments at the outset. Firstly: we are not concerned with
    any problem that might have been posed had the accident been not wholly
    attributable to the negligence of the respondents, but partly attributable to
    negligent driving by the injured son of the plaintiff. Secondly: the plaintiff


    is to be regarded as of normal disposition or phlegm: we are therefore not
    concerned to investigate the applicability of the " thin skull" cases to this
    type of case.

    The facts in this case, and the physical illness suffered by the plaintiff as
    a result of mental trauma caused to her by what she learned, heard and saw
    at the hospital have been set out in the speech of my noble and learned
    friend, Lord Wilberforce, and I do not repeat them.

    All members of the Court of Appeal concluded that that which happened
    to the plaintiff was reasonably foreseeable by the defendants as a consequence
    of their negligence on the road. (In some cases, and at all levels, a
    reasonable bystander seems to be introduced as a relevant mind: I do not
    understand why: reasonable foreseeability must surely be something to be
    attributed to the person guilty of negligence.)

    But if the effect on this wife and mother of the results of the negligence
    is considered to have been reasonably foreseeable, I do not see the
    justification for not finding the defendants liable in damages therefor. I
    would not shrink from regarding in an appropriate case policy as something
    which may feature in a judicial decision. But in this case what policy
    should inhibit a decision in favour of liability to the plaintiff? Negligent
    driving on the highway is only one form of negligence which may cause
    wounding or death and thus induce a relevant mental trauma in a person
    such as the plaintiff. There seems to be no policy requirement that the
    damage to the plaintiff should be on or adjacent to the highway. In the
    last analysis any policy consideration seems to be rooted in a fear of
    floodgates opening—the tacit question " What next? ". I am not impressed
    by that fear—certainly not sufficiently to deprive this plaintiff of just
    compensation for the reasonably foreseeable damage done to her. I do
    not consider that such deprivation is justified by trying to answer in
    advance the question posed " What next?" by a consideration of
    relationships of plaintiff to the sufferers or deceased, or other circumstances:
    to attempt in advance solutions, or even guidelines, in hypothetical cases
    may well, it seems to me, in this field, do more harm than good.

    1 also would allow this appeal.

    Lord Scarman

    my lords,

    I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech of my noble and
    learned friend, Lord Bridge of Harwich. It cannot be strengthened or
    improved by any words of mine. I accept his approach to the law and
    the conclusion he reaches. But I also share the anxieties of the Court of
    Appeal. I differ, however, from the Court of Appeal in that I am persuaded
    that in this branch of the law it is not for the courts but for the legislature
    to set limits, if any be needed, to the law's development.

    The appeal raises directly a question as to the balance in our law between
    the functions of judge and legislature. The common law, which in a
    constitutional context includes judicially developed equity, covers everything
    which is not covered by statute. It knows no gaps: there can be no
    " casus omissus ". The function of the court is to decide the case before it,
    even though the decision may require the extension or adaptation of a
    principle or in some cases the creation of new law to meet the justice of the
    case. But, whatever the court decides to do, it starts from a base-line of
    existing principle and seeks a solution consistent with or analogous to a
    principle or principles already recognised.

    The distinguishing feature of the common law is this judicial development
    and formulation of principle. Policy considerations will have to be
    weighed: but the objective of the judges is the formulation of principle.
    And, if principle inexorably requires a decision which entails a degree of
    policy risk, the court's function is to adjudicate according to principle,
    leaving policy curtailment to the judgment of Parliament. Here lies the


    true role of the two law-making institutions in our constitution. By
    concentrating on principle the judges can keep the common law alive,
    flexible and consistent, and can keep the legal system clear of policy
    problems which neither they, nor the forensic process which it is their duty
    to operate, are equipped to resolve. If principle leads to results which
    are thought to be socially unacceptable, Parliament can legislate to draw a
    line or map out a new path.

    The real risk to the common law is not its movement to cover new
    situations and new knowledge but lest it should stand still, halted by a
    conservative judicial approach. If that should happen, and since the 1966
    Practice Direction of the House it has become less likely, there would be
    a danger of the law becoming irrelevant to the consideration, and inept in
    its treatment, of modem social problems. Justice would be defeated. The
    common law has, however, avoided this catastrophe by the flexibility given
    it by generations of judges. Flexibility carries with it, of course, certain
    risks, notably a degree of uncertainty in the law and the " floodgates " risk
    which so impressed the Court of Appeal in the present case.

    The importance to be attached to certainty and the size of the
    " floodgates " risk vary from one branch of the law to another. What is
    required of the law in its approach to a commercial transaction will be very
    different from the approach appropriate to problems of tortious liability for
    personal injuries. In some branches of the law, notably that now under
    consideration, the search for certainty can obstruct the law's pursuit of
    justice, and can become the enemy of the good.

    The present case is a good illustration. Certainty could have been
    achieved by leaving the law as it was left by Victorian Railways
    v. Coultas (1888) 13 App. Cas. 222, or again, by holding the
    line drawn in 1901 by Dulieu v. White & Sons [1901] 1 K.B. 669, or to-day
    by confining the law to what was regarded by Lord Denning M.R. in Hinz v.
    Berry [1970] 2 Q.B. 40, 42, as " settled law ", namely that " damages can be
    " given for nervous shock caused by the sight of an accident, at any rate
    " to a close relative."

    But at each landmark stage common law principle, when considered in
    the context of developing medical science, has beckoned the judges on.
    And now, as has been made clear by Evatt J., dissenting, in Chester's case
    in the High Court of Australia, (1939) 62 C.L.R. 1, by Tobriner J. giving
    the majority judgment in the Californian case of Dillon v. Legg (1968) 29
    A.L.R. 3rd 1316, and by my noble and learned friend in this case, common
    law principle requires the judges to follow the logic of the " reasonably
    " foreseeable test " so as, in circumstances where it is appropriate, to apply it
    untrammelled by spatial, physical, or temporal limits. Space, time, distance,
    the nature of the injuries sustained, and the relationship of the plaintiff
    to the immediate victim of the accident, are factors to be weighed, but not
    legal limitations, when the test of reasonable foreseeability is to be applied.

    But I am by no means sure that the result is socially desirable. The
    " floodgates " argument may be exaggerated. Time alone will tell: but I
    foresee social and financial problems if damages for " nervous shock"
    should be made available to persons other than parents and children who
    without seeing or hearing the accident, or being present in the immediate
    aftermath, suffer nervous shock in consequence of it. There is, I think, a
    powerful case for legislation such as has been enacted in New South
    Wales and the Australian Capital Territories.

    Why then should not the courts draw the line, as the Court of Appeal
    manfully tried to do in this case? Simply, because the policy issue as to
    where to draw the line is not justiciable. The problem is one of social,
    economic, and financial policy. The considerations relevant to a decision
    are not such as to be capable of being handled within the limits of the
    forensic process.

    My Lords, I would allow the appeal for the reasons developed by my
    noble and learned friend, Lord Bridge of Harwich, while putting on record
    my view that there is here a case for legislation.


    Lord Bridge of Harwich

    my lords,

    I gratefully adopt the account given by my noble and learned friend,
    Lord Wilberforce, of the facts giving rise to this appeal.

    This is only the second case ever to reach your Lordships' House
    concerning the liability of a tortfeasor who has negligently killed or physi-
    cally injured A to pay damages to B for a psychiatric illness resulting from
    A's death or injury. The previous case was Bourhill v. Young [1943]
    A.C. 92. The impression with which I am left, after being taken in
    argument through all the relevant English authorities, a number of Common-
    wealth authorities, and one important decision of the Supreme Court of
    California, is that this whole area of English law stands in urgent need
    of review.

    The basic difficulty of the subject arises from the fact that the crucial
    answers to the questions which it raises lie in the difficult field of psychiatric
    medicine. The common law gives no damages for the emotional distress
    which any normal person experiences when someone he loves is killed or
    injured. Anxiety and depression are normal human emotions. Yet an
    anxiety neurosis or a reactive depression may be recognisable psychiatric
    illnesses, with or without psychosomatic symptoms. So, the first hurdle
    which a plaintiff claiming damages of the kind in question must surmount
    is to establish that he is suffering, not merely grief, distress or any other
    normal emotion, but a positive psychiatric illness. That is here not in
    issue. A plaintiff must then establish the necessary chain of causation in
    fact between his psychiatric illness and the death or injury of one or more
    third parties negligently caused by the defendant. Here again, this is not
    in dispute in the instant case. But when causation in fact is in issue, it
    must no doubt be determined by the judge on the basis of the evidence
    of psychiatrists. Then, here comes the all important question. Given the
    fact of the plaintiff's psychiatric illness caused by the defendant's negligence
    in killing or physically injuring another, was the chain of causation from
    the one event to the other, considered ex post facto in the light of all that has
    happened, " reasonably foreseeable" by the "reasonable man"? A
    moment's thought will show that the answer to that question depends on
    what knowledge is to be attributed to the hypothetical reasonable man
    of the operation of cause and effect in psychiatric medicine. There are at
    least two theoretically possible approaches. The first is that the judge
    should receive the evidence of psychiatrists as to the degree of probability
    that the particular cause would produce the particular effect, and apply
    to that the appropriate legal test of reasonable foreseeability as the criterion
    of the defendant's duty of care. The second is that the judge, relying on
    his own opinion of the operation of cause and effect in psychiatric medicine,
    as fairly representative of that of the educated layman, should treat himself
    as the reasonable man and form his own view from the primary facts as
    to whether the proven chain of cause and effect was reasonably foreseeable.
    In principle, I think there is much to be said for the first approach.
    Foreseeability, in any given set of circumstances, is ultimately a question
    of fact. If a claim in negligence depends on whether some defect in a
    complicated piece of machinery was foreseeably a cause of injury, I
    apprehend that the judge will decide that question on the basis of the
    expert evidence of engineers. But the authorities give no support to this
    approach in relation to the foreseeability of psychiatric illness. The judges,
    in all the decisions we have been referred to, have assumed that it lay
    within their own competence to determine whether the plaintiff's "nervous
    " shock" (as lawyers quaintly persist in calling it), was in any given
    circumstances a sufficiently foreseeable consequence of the defendant's act
    or omission relied on as negligent to bring the plaintiff within the scope
    of those to whom the defendant owed a duty of care. To depart from
    this practice and treat the question of foreseeable causation in this field,
    and hence the scope of the defendant's duty as a question of fact to be
    determined in the light of the expert evidence adduced in each case, would,


    no doubt, be too large an innovation in the law to be regarded as properly
    within the competence, even since the liberating 1966 Practice Direction,
    of your Lordships' House. Moreover, psychiatric medicine is far from
    being an exact science. The opinions of its practitioners may differ widely.
    Clearly it is desirable in this, as in any other field, that the law should
    achieve such a measure of certainty as is consistent with the demands of
    justice. It would seem that the consensus of informed judicial opinion is
    probably the best yardstick available to determine whether, in any given
    circumstances, the emotional trauma resulting from the death or injury of
    third parties, or indeed the threat of such death or injury, ex hypothesi
    attributable to the defendant's negligence, was a foreseeable cause in law,
    as well as the actual cause in fact, of the plaintiff's psychiatric or psycho-
    somatic illness. But the word I would emphasise in the foregoing sentence
    is " informed ". For too long earlier generations of judges have regarded
    psychiatry and psychiatrists with suspicion, if not hostility. Now, I venture
    to hope, that attitude has quite disappeared. No judge who has spent any
    length of time trying personal injury claims in recent years would doubt
    that physical injuries can give rise not only to organic but also to psychiatric
    disorders. The sufferings of the patient from the latter are no less real
    and frequently no less painful and disabling than from the former. Like-
    wise, I would suppose that the legal profession well understands that an
    acute emotional trauma, like a physical trauma, can well cause a psychiatric
    illness in a wide range of circumstances and in a wide range of individuals
    whom it would be wrong to regard as having any abnormal psychological
    make-up. It is in comparatively recent times that these insights have come
    to be generally accepted by the judiciary. It is only by giving effect to
    these insights in the developing law of negligence that we can do justice
    to an important, though no doubt small, class of plaintiffs whose genuine
    psychiatric illnesses are caused by negligent defendants.

    My Lords, in the instant case I cannot help thinking that the learned trial
    judge's conclusion that the appellant's illness was not the foreseeable
    consequence of the respondents' negligence was one to which, understand-
    ably, he felt himself driven by the authorities. Free of authority, and
    applying the ordinary criterion of reasonable foreseeability to the facts,
    with an eye " enlightened by progressive awareness of mental illness " (the
    language of Stephenson L.J.), any judge must, I would think, share the view
    of all three members of the Court of Appeal, with which I understand all
    your Lordships agree, that, in the words of Griffiths L.J., it was " readily
    " foreseeable that a significant number of mothers exposed to such an
    " experience might break down under the shock of the event and suffer
    " illness".

    The question, then, for your Lordships' decision is whether the law, as
    a matter of policy, draws a line which exempts from liability a defendant
    whose negligent act or omission was actually and foreseeably the cause of
    the plaintiff's psychiatric illness and, if so, where that line is to be drawn.
    In thus formulating the question, I do not, of course, use the word
    " negligent " as prejudging the question whether the defendant owes the
    plaintiff a duty, but I do use the word " foreseeably " as connoting the
    normally accepted criterion of such a duty.

    Before attempting to answer the question, it is instructive to consider
    the historical development of the subject as illustrated by the authorities,
    and to note, in particular, three features of that development. First, it will
    be seen that successive attempts have been made to draw a line beyond
    which liability should not extend, each of which has in due course had
    to be abandoned. Secondly, the ostensible justification for drawing the
    line has been related to the current criterion of a defendant's duty of care,
    which, however expressed in earlier judgments, we should now describe as
    that of reasonable foreseeability. But. thirdly, in so far as policy consider-
    tins can be seen to have influenced any of the decisions, they appear to
    have sprung from the fear that to cross the chosen line would be to open
    the floodgates to claims without limit and largely without merit.


    Perhaps the most vivid illustration of all three features is in the very
    first case in the series, the decision of the Privy Council in Victorian
    Railways Commissioners
    v. Coultas (1888) 13 App. Cas. 222. The plaintiff,
    a pregnant lady, was a passenger in a buggy which was negligently allowed
    by the defendants' gatekeeper to cross the railway line when a train was
    approaching. The buggy crossed just in time, ahead of the train, but only
    narrowly escaped collision. The plaintiff was so alarmed that she suffered
    what was described as "a severe nervous shock. She fainted, and subset-
    queenly miscarried. She succeeded in her claim for damages in the courts
    below. Delivering the judgment of the Privy Council, allowing the appeal,
    Sir R. Couch said, at p.225:

    " According to the evidence of the female plaintiff her fright was
    " caused by seeing the train approaching, and thinking they were
    " going to be killed. Damages arising from mere sudden terror
    " unaccompanied by an actual physical injury, but occasioning a
    " nervous or mental shock, cannot, under such circumstances, their
    " Lordships think, be considered a consequence which, in the ordinary
    " course of things, would flow from the negligence of the gate-keeper.
    " If it were held that they can, it appears to their Lordships that it
    " would be extending the liability for negligence much beyond what that
    " liability has hitherto been held to be. Not only in such a case at the
    " present, but in every case where an accident caused by negligence
    " had given a person a serious nervous shock, there might be a claim
    " for damages on account of mental injury. The difficulty which now
    " often exists in case of alleged physical injuries of determining whether
    " they were caused by the negligent act would be greatly increased, and
    " a wide field opened for imaginary claims."

    Two Irish courts declined to follow this decision: Bell v. The Great
    Northern Railway of Ireland
    (1890) 26 L.R. Ir. 428, following Byrne v.
    Great Southern and Western Railway Company of Ireland (unreported).
    The next English case followed the Irish courts' lead. This was Dulieu v.
    White & Sons [1901] 1 K.B. 669. The case was argued on a preliminary
    point of law. The plaintiff, again a pregnant lady, pleaded that she had
    suffered nervous shock when the defendants' horse-drawn van was negligently
    driven into the public house where she was behind the bar. Kennedy J.
    gave the leading judgment of the Divisional Court in the plaintiff's favour.
    It is worth quoting the passage which is central to his decision, if only to
    show how far we have travelled in the last eighty years in the judicial
    approach to the kind of medical question presently under consideration.
    He said at p.677:

    " For my own part, I should not like to assume it to be scientifically
    " true that a nervous shock which causes serious bodily illness is not
    " actually accompanied by physical injury, although it may be
    " impossible, or at least difficult, to detect the injury at the time in the
    " living subject. I should not be surprised if the surgeon or the
    " physiologist told us that nervous shock is or may be in itself an
    " injurious affection of the physical organism. Let it be assumed,
    " however, that the physical injury follows the shock, but that the jury
    " are satisfied upon proper and sufficient medical evidence that it follows
    " the shock as its direct and natural effect, is there any legal reason for
    " saying that the damage is less proximate in the legal sense than
    " damage which arises contemporaneously? "

    But earlier in his judgment Kennedy J. had drawn a new line of limitation
    when he said, at p.675: " The shock, where it operates through the mind,
    " must be a shock which arises from a reasonable fear of immediate personal
    " injury to oneself." He supported this by reference to an earlier unreported
    case (Smith v. Johnson and Co.), where the unsuccessful plaintiff suffered
    from the shock of seeing another person killed, and said of such a case:
    " I should myself . . . have been inclined to go a step further, and to hold
    "... that, as the defendant neither intended to affect the plaintiff
    " injuriously nor did anything which could reasonably or naturally be


    " expected to affect him injuriously, there was no evidence of any breach of
    " legal duty towards the plaintiff . . .".

    The next landmark is Hambrook v. Stokes Bros [1925] 1 K.B. 141. This
    was the case which turned on whether " nervous shock " caused to a mother
    by fear for her children, who had just disappeared round a corner going
    up a hill when a runaway lorry appeared round the corner going downhill,
    and when, as it turned out, one of her children was injured, gave a cause
    of action against the driver whose negligence allowed the lorry to run down
    the hill. The court by a majority held that it did. The leading judgment
    of Bankes L.J. sought to demonstrate the absurdity of maintaining the
    boundary of a defendant's liability for " nervous shock " on the line drawn
    by Kennedy J., saying at p. 151:

    " Assume two mothers crossing this street at the same time when
    " this lorry comes thundering down, each holding a small child by the
    " hand. One mother is courageous and devoted to her child. She is
    " terrified, but thinks only of the damage to the child, and not at all
    " about herself. The other woman is timid and lacking in the motherly
    " instinct. She also is terrified, but thinks only of the damage to herself
    " and not at all about her child. The health of both mothers is seriously
    " affected by the mental shock occasioned by the fright. Can any real
    " distinction be drawn between the two cases? Will the law recognize
    " a cause of action in the case of the less deserving mother, and none
    " in the case of the more deserving one? Does the law say that the
    " defendant ought reasonably to have anticipated the non-natural
    " feeling of the timid mother, and not the natural feeling of the
    " courageous mother? I think not."

    Sargant L.J., in his dissenting judgment, nevertheless sought to uphold the
    distinction essentially on the basis that " nervous shock" caused to a
    plaintiff by fear of injury to himself occasioned by a " near miss" is
    indistinguishable, so far as the defendant's duty is concerned, from injury
    by direct impact, whereas " nervous shock " caused by the fear or sight of
    injury to another is beyond the defendant's anticipation and hence beyond
    the range of his duty.

    When one comes to the decision of your Lordships' House in Bourhill
    v. Young (u.s.) it is important to bear in mind, as the speeches delivered
    show, that the difference of judicial opinion in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros
    (u.s.) remained unresolved, and indeed that their Lordships did not purport
    to resolve it. Furthermore, on the facts of that case the result was surely a
    foregone conclusion. The pursuer was alighting from a tram when she
    heard, but did not see, the impact of a collision between a motor-cyclist
    (on whose negligence in driving too fast her claim was based) and a car.
    The motor-cyclist, a stranger to the pursuer, was killed. There is nothing
    in the report to indicate that she ever saw the body, but after the body
    had been removed she saw the blood left on the road. In these circumstances
    I cannot suppose that any judge today would dissent from the view that
    " nervous shock " to the pursuer was not reasonably foreseeable. Nor would
    anyone, I think, quarrel with the following passage from the speech of Lord
    Porter as expressing a view of the law as acceptable in 1982 as it was in

    " The question whether emotional disturbance or shock, which a
    " defender ought reasonably to have anticipated as likely to follow
    " from his reckless driving, can ever form the basis of a claim is not
    " in issue. It is not every emotional disturbance or every shock which
    " should have been foreseen. The driver of a car or vehicle, even
    " though careless, is entitled to assume that the ordinary frequenter of
    " the streets has sufficient fortitude to endure such incidents as may
    " from time to time be expected to occur in them, including the noise
    " of a collision and the sight of injury to others, and is not to be
    " considered negligent towards one who does not possess the customary
    " phlegm."


    On the difference of opinion in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros, (u.s.) Lord
    Russell of Killowen in terms expressed a preference for the dissenting view of
    Sargant L.J. Lord Thunderstone and Lord Macmillan, although not saying so
    in terms, appear by necessary implication to support the same view by
    confining a driver's duty of care to those in the area of potential physical
    danger which may arise from the manner of his driving. Lord Porter's
    speech is neutral. Lord Wright expressed provisional agreement with the
    majority decision in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros (u.s.). His speech also
    contained the following and, as I think, far-sighted passage, at p. 110:

    " What is now being considered is the question of liability, and this,
    " I think, in a question whether there is duty owing to members of the
    " public who come within the ambit of the act, must generally depend
    " on a normal standard of susceptibility. This, it may be said, is
    " somewhat vague. That is true, but definition involves limitation
    " which it is desirable to avoid further than is necessary in a principle
    " of law like negligence which is widely ranging and is still in the stage
    " of development. It is here, as elsewhere, a question of what the
    " hypothetical reasonable man, viewing the position, I suppose ex
    " post facto, would say it was proper to foresee. What danger of
    " particular infirmity that would include must depend on all the
    " circumstances, but generally, I think, a reasonably normal condition.
    " if medical evidence is capable of defining it, would be the standard.
    " The test of the plaintiff's extraordinary susceptibility, if unknown to
    " the defendant, would in effect make him an insurer. The lawyer
    " likes to draw fixed and definite lines and is apt to ask where the
    " thing is to stop. I should reply it should stop where in the particular
    " case the good sense of the jury or of the judge decides .... I
    " cannot, however, forbear referring to a most important case in the
    " High Court of Australia, Chester v. Waverley Corporation, where the
    " court by a majority held that no duty was made out. The dissenting
    " judgment of Evatt J. will demand the consideration of any judge who
    " is called on to consider these questions."

    I shall return later to the judgment of Evatt J. to which Lord Wright there

    I need not consider in detail the subsequent English Court of Appeal
    decisions in King v. Phillips [1953] 1 Q.B. 429, Boardman v. Sanderson
    [1964] 1 WLR 1317 and Hinz v. Berry [1970] 2 Q.B. 40. In King v.
    Phillips (u.s.) Denning L.J. as he then was, said at p.441:

    " there can be no doubt since Bourhill v. Young that the test of liability
    " for shock is foreseeability of injury by shock."

    This observation was cited with approval in The " Wagon Mound" [1961]
    A.C. 388 at p.426. I would add, however, that King v. Phillips (u.s.),
    a case in which the plaintiff failed, would, as I think, clearly be decided
    differently today. By 1970 it was clear that no one could any longer contend
    for the limitation of liability for " nervous shock" to those who were
    themselves put in danger by the defendant's negligence, so much so that in
    Hinz v. Berry (u.s.) a mother who witnessed from one side of the road a
    terrible accident to her family picnicking on the other side of the road
    recovered damages for her resulting psychiatric illness without dispute on the
    issue of liability, and the case reached the Court of Appeal on the issue of
    quantum of damages only. Lord Denning M.R. said at p.42:

    " The law at one time said that there could not be damages for
    " nervous shock: but for these last 25 years, it has been settled that
    " damages can be given for nervous shock caused by the sight of an
    " accident, at any rate to a close relative."

    The only other important English decision is Chadwick v. British Railways
    [19671 1 W.L.R. 912. The plaintiff's husband lived 200 yards from
    the scene of the terrible Lewisham railway accident in 1957 in which 90
    people were killed. On hearing of the accident in the evening he went
    at once to the scene and assisted in the rescue work through the night until


    early the next morning. As a result of his experiences of the night he
    developed an acute anxiety neurosis for which he required hospital treat-
    ment as an in-patient for over six months. After his death from unrelated
    causes his wife, as administrator of his estate, recovered damages for his
    psychiatric illness. This was a decision of Waller J. It was not challenged
    on appeal and no one, I believe, has ever doubted that it was rightly

    I should mention two Commonwealth decisions of first instance. In
    Benson v. Lee [1972] V.R. 879 Lush J., in the Supreme Court of Victoria,
    held that a mother who did not witness, but was told of, an accident to
    her son 100 yards from her home, went to the scene and accompanied the
    child in an ambulance to hospital where he died, was entitled to damages
    for " nervous shock" notwithstanding evidence that she was prone to
    mental illness from stress. In Marshall v. Lionel Enterprises Inc. (1971)
    25 D.L.R. (3d) 141, Haines J., in the Ontario High Court, held that a wife
    who found her husband seriously injured shortly after an accident caused
    by defective machinery was not, as a matter of law, disentitled to damages
    for the " nervous shock " which she claimed to have suffered as a result.
    On the other hand in Abramzik v. Brenner (1967) 65 D.L.R. (2d) the
    Saskatchewan Court of Appeal held that a mother who suffered " nervous
    shock " on being informed by her husband that two of her children had
    been killed in a road accident was not entitled to recover.

    Chester v. Waverley Corporation (1939) 62 C.L.R. 1, referred to by
    Lord Wright in the passage quoted above, was a decision of the High
    Court of Australia. The plaintiff's seven year old son having been out to
    play, failed to return home when expected. A search was mounted which
    continued for some hours. Eventually, in the presence of the plaintiff,
    his mother, the child's dead body was recovered from a flooded trench
    which the defendant authority had left inadequately fenced. The plaintiff
    claimed damages for " nervous shock ". The majority of the court (Latham
    L.J., Rich and Starke JUJU.) rejected the claim. The decision was based
    squarely on the ground that the plaintiff's injury not being a foreseeable
    consequence of the defendant's omission to fence the trench, they owed
    her no duty. But the judgment of Latham L.J. contains an interesting
    example of the " floodgates " argument. He said, at app., 8:

    " But in this case the plaintiff must establish a duty owed by the
    " defendant to herself and a breach of that duty. The duty which it
    " is suggested the defendant owed to the plaintiff was a duty not to
    " injure her child so as to cause her a nervous shock when she saw,
    " not the happening of the injury, but the result of the injury, namely,
    " the dead body of the child. It is rather difficult to state the limit of
    " the alleged duty. If a duty of the character suggested exists at all,
    " it is not really said that it should be confined to mothers of children
    " who are injured. It must extend to some wider class—but to what
    " class? There appears to be no reason why it should not extend
    " to other relatives or to all other persons, whether they are relatives
    " or not. If this is the true principle of law, then a person who is
    " guilty of negligence with the result that A is injured will be liable
    " in damages to B, C, D and any other persons who receive a nervous
    " shock (as distinguished from passing fright or distress) at any time
    " upon perceiving the results of the negligence, whether in disfigure-
    " ment of person, physical injury, or death."

    In a powerful dissenting judgment, which I find wholly convincing,
    Evatt J. drew a vivid picture of the mother's agony of mind as the search
    continued, culminating in the gruesome discovery in her presence of the
    child's drowned body. I cannot for a moment doubt the correctness of
    his conclusion that the mother's mental illness was the reasonably foresee-
    able consequence of the defendant's negligence. This was a case from
    New South Wales and I cannot help wondering whether it was not the
    manifest injustice of the result which led, a few years later, to the interven-
    tion of the New South Wales legislature, to enable the parent, husband or


    wife of a person " killed, injured or put in peril" by another's negligence
    to recover damages for "mental or nervous shock" irrespective of any
    spatial or temporal relationship to the accident in which the death, injury
    or peril occurred.

    My Lords, looking back I think it is possible to discern that there only
    ever were two clear lines of limitation of a defendant's liability for " nervous
    "shock" for which any rational justification could be advanced in the
    light, both of the state of the law of negligence and the state of medical
    science as judicially understood, at the time when those limitations were
    propounded. In 1888 it was, no doubt, perfectly sensible to say: " Damages
    "arising from mere sudden terror unaccompanied by any actual physical
    " injury, but occasioning a nervous or mental shock, cannot ... be
    " considered a consequence which, in the ordinary course of things,
    " would flow from . . . negligence". Here the test, whether of duty
    or of remoteness, can be recognised as a relatively distant ancestor of the
    modern criterion of reasonable foreseeability. Again, in 1901 it was, I
    would suppose, equally sensible to limit a defendant's liability for " nervous
    " shock " which could " reasonably or actually be expected " to be such
    as was suffered by a plaintiff who was himself physically endangered by the
    defendant's negligence. But once that line of limitation has been crossed,
    as it was by the majority in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros, (u.s.), there can
    be no logical reason whatever for limiting the defendant's duty to persons
    in physical proximity to the place where the accident, caused by the
    defendant's negligence, occurred. Much of the confusion in the authorities
    since Bourhill v. Young (u.s.), including, if I may say so, the judgments of
    the courts below in the instant case, has arisen, as it seems to me, from
    the deference still accorded, notwithstanding the acceptance of the
    Hambrook principle, to dicta of their Lordships in Bourhill v. Young (u.s.)
    which only make sense if understood as based on the limited principle of
    liability propounded by Kennedy J. in Dulieu v. White & Sons (u.s.), and
    adopted in the dissenting judgment of Sargant L.J. in Hambrook v. Stokes

    My Lords, before returning to the policy question, it is, I think, highly
    instructive to consider the decision of the Supreme Court of California
    in Dillon v. Legg (1968) 29 ALR 3d 1316. Before this decision the law of
    California, and evidently of other States of the Union, had adhered to the
    English position before Hambrook v. Stokes Bros, (u.s.), that damages for
    nervous shock could only be recovered if resulting from the plaintiff's
    apprehension of danger to himself and, indeed, this view had been
    affirmed by the Californian Supreme Court only five years earlier. The
    majority in Dillon v. Legg (u.s.) adopted a contrary view in refusing a
    motion to dismiss a mother's claim for damages for emotional trauma
    caused by seeing her infant daughter killed by a car as she crossed the

    In delivering the majority judgment of the court, Tobriner J. said, at
    pp. 1326-7:

    " Since the chief element in determining whether defendant owes a
    " duty or an obligation to plaintiff is the foreseeability of the risk, that
    " factor will be of prime concern in every case. Because it is inherently
    " intertwined with foreseeability such duty or obligation must
    " necessarily be adjudicated only upon a case-by-case basis. We cannot
    " now predetermine defendant's obligation in every situation by a fixed
    " category; no immutable rule can establish the extent of that obligation
    " for every circumstance of the future. We can, however, define
    " guidelines which will aid in the resolution of such an issue as the
    " instant one.

    " We note, first, that we deal here with a case in which plaintiff
    " suffered a shock which resulted in physical injury and we confine our
    " ruling to that case. In determining, in such a case, whether defendant
    " should reasonably foresee the injury to plaintiff, or, in other
    " terminology, whether defendant owes plaintiff a duty of due care.


    " the courts will take into account such factors as the following: (1)
    " Whether plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as
    " contrasted with one who was a distance away from it. (2) Whether
    " the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon plaintiff from
    " the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident, as
    " contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its
    " occurrence. (3) Whether plaintiff and the victim were closely
    " related, as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the
    " presence of only a distant relationship.

    " The evaluation of these factors will indicate the degree of the
    " defendant's foreseeability: obviously defendant is more likely to
    " foresee that a mother who observes an accident affecting her child
    " will suffer harm than to foretell .that a stranger witness will do so.
    " Similarly, the degree of foreseeability of the third person's injury is
    " far greater in the case of his contemporaneous observance of the
    " accident than that in which he subsequently learns of it. The
    " defendant is more likely to foresee that shock to the nearby, witnessing
    " mother will cause physical harm than to anticipate that someone
    " distant from the accident will suffer more than a temporary emotional
    " reaction. All these elements, of course, shade into each other; the
    " fixing of obligation, intimately tied into the facts depends upon each
    " case.

    " In light of these factors the court will determine whether the
    " accident and harm was reasonably foreseeable. Such reasonable
    " foreseeability does not turn on whether the particular plaintiff as an
    " individual would have in actuality foreseen the exact accident and
    " loss; it contemplates that courts, on a case-to-case basis, analyzing all
    " the circumstances, will decide what the ordinary man under such
    " circumstances should reasonably have foreseen. The courts thus mark
    " out the areas of liability, excluding the remote and unexpected.

    " In the instant case, the presence of all the above factors indicates
    " that plaintiff has alleged a sufficient prima facie case. Surely the
    " negligent driver who causes the death of a young child may reasonably
    " expect that the mother will not be far distant and will upon witnessing
    " the accident suffer emotional trauma. As Dean Prosser has stated:
    " ' when a child is endangered, it is not beyond contemplation that its
    " ' mother will be somewhere in the vicinity, and will suffer serious
    " ' shock.' (Prosser, The Law of Torts, supra, at p.353. See also
    " 2 Harper & James, The Law of Torts, supra, at p. 1039.)

    " We are not now called upon to decide whether, in the absence or
    " reduced weight of some of the above factors, we would conclude
    " that the accident and injury were not reasonably foreseeable and that
    " therefore defendant owed no duty of due care to plaintiff. In future
    " cases the courts will draw lines of demarcation upon facts more subtle
    " than the compelling one alleged in the complaint before us."

    The leading minority judgment castigated the majority for embarking on
    a first excursion into the " fantastic realm of infinite liability ", a colourful
    variant of the familiar " floodgates " argument.

    In approaching the question whether the law should, as a matter of policy,
    define the criterion of liability in negligence for causing psychiatric illness
    by reference to some test other than that of reasonable foreseeability it is
    well to remember that we are concerned only with the question of liability
    of a defendant who is, ex hypothesi, guilty of fault in causing the death,
    injury or danger which has in turn triggered the psychiatric illness. A policy
    which is to be relied on to narrow the scope of the negligent tortfeasor's
    duty must be justified by cogent and readily intelligible considerations, and
    must be capable of defining the appropriate limits of liability by reference
    to factors which are not purely arbitrary. A number of policy considerations
    which have been suggested as satisfying these requirements appear to me,
    with respect, to be wholly insufficient. I can see no ground whatever for


    suggesting that to make the defendant liable for reasonably foreseeable
    psychiatric illness caused by his negligence, would be to impose a crushing
    burden on him out of proportion to his moral responsibility. However
    liberally the criterion of reasonable foreseeability is interpreted, both the
    number of successful claims in this field and the quantum of damages they
    will attract are likely to be moderate. I cannot accept as relevant the
    well-known phenomenon that litigation may delay recovery from a
    psychiatric illness. If this were a valid policy consideration, it would lead
    to the conclusion that psychiatric illness should be excluded altogether from
    the heads of damage which the law will recognise. It cannot justify limiting
    the cases in which damages will be awarded for psychiatric illness by
    reference to the circumstances of its causation. To attempt to draw a line
    at the furthest point which any of the decided cases happen to have reached,
    and to say that it is for the legislature, not the courts, to extend the limits
    of liability any further, would be, to my mind, an unwarranted abdication
    of the court's function of developing and adapting principles of the common
    law to changing conditions, in a particular corner of the common law which
    exemplifies, par excellence, the important and indeed necessary part which
    that function has to play. In the end I believe that the policy question
    depends on weighing against each other two conflicting considerations. On
    the one hand, if the criterion of liability is to be reasonable foreseeability
    simpliciter, this must, precisely because questions of causation in psychiatric
    medicine give rise to difficulty and uncertainty, introduce an element of
    uncertainty into the law and open the way to a number of arguable claims
    which a more precisely fixed criterion of liability would exclude. I accept
    that the element of uncertainty is an important factor. I believe that the
    " floodgates" argument, however, is, as it always has been, greatly
    exaggerated. On the other hand, it seems to me inescapable that any
    attempt to define the limit of liability by requiring, in addition to reasonable
    foreseeability, that the plaintiff claiming damages for psychiatric illness
    should have witnessed the relevant accident, should have been present at
    or near the place where it happened, should have come upon its aftermath
    and thus have some direct perception of it, as opposed to merely learning
    of it after the event, should be related in some particular degree to the
    accident victim—to draw a line by reference to any of these criteria must
    impose a largely arbitrary limit of liability. I accept, of course, the
    importance of the factors indicated in the guidelines suggested by Tobriner
    J. in Dillon v. Legg (u.s.) as bearing upon the degree of foreseeability of the
    plaintiff's psychiatric illness. But let me give two examples to illustrate
    what injustice would be wrought by any such hard and fast lines of policy
    as have been suggested. First, consider the plaintiff who learned after the
    event of the relevant accident. Take the case of a mother who knows that
    her husband and children are staying in a certain hotel. She reads in her
    morning newspaper that it has been the scene of a disastrous fire. She
    sees in the paper a photograph of unidentifiable victims trapped on the top
    floor waving for help from the windows. She learns shortly afterwards
    that all her family have perished. She suffers an acute psychiatric illness.
    That her illness in these circumstances was a reasonably foreseeable
    consequence of the events resulting from the fire is undeniable. Yet. is the
    law to deny her damages as against a defendant whose negligence was
    responsible for the fire simply on the ground that an important link in the
    chain of causation of her psychiatric illness was supplied by her imagination
    of the agonies of mind and body in which her family died, rather than by
    direct perception of the event? Secondly, consider the plaintiff who is
    unrelated to the victims of the relevant accident. If rigidly applied, an
    exclusion of liability to him would have defeated the plaintiff's claim in
    Chadwick v. British Railways Board (u.s.). The Court of Appeal treated
    that case as in a special category because Mr. Chadwick was a rescuer. Now,
    the special duty owed to a rescuer who voluntarily places himself in physical
    danger to save others is well understood, and is illustrated by Haynes v.
    Harwood [1935] 1 K.B. 146, the case of the constable injured in stopping a
    runaway horse in a crowded street. But in relation to the psychiatric
    consequences of witnessing such terrible carnage as must have resulted from


    the Lewisham train disaster, I would find it difficult to distinguish in
    principle the position of a rescuer, like Mr. Chadwick, from a mere spectator
    as, for example, an uninjured or only slightly injured passenger in the
    train, who took no part in the rescue operations but was present at the
    scene after the accident for some time, perforce observing the rescue
    operations while he waited for transport to take him home.

    My Lords, I have no doubt that this is an area of the law of negligence
    where we should resist the temptation to try yet once more to freeze the law
    in a rigid posture which would deny justice to some who, in the application
    of the classic principles of negligence derived from Donoghue v. Stevenson
    [1932] AC 562, ought to succeed, in the interests of certainty, where the
    very subject-matter is uncertain and continuously developing, or in the
    interests of saving defendants and their insurers from the burden of having
    sometimes to resist doubtful claims. I find myself in complete agreement
    with Tobriner J. that the defendant's duty must depend on reasonable
    foreseeability and " must necessarily be adjudicated only upon a case-by-case
    " basis. We cannot now pre-determine defendant's obligation in every
    " situation by a fixed category; no immutable rule can establish the extent
    " of that obligation for every circumstance of the future". To put the
    matter in another way, if asked where the thing is to stop, I should answer,
    in an adaptation of the language of Lord Wright and Stephenson L.J.,
    " where in the particular case the good sense of the judge, enlightened by
    " progressive awareness of mental illness, decides."

    1 regret that my noble and learned friend, Lord Edmund-Davies, who
    criticises my conclusion that in this area of the law there are no policy
    considerations sufficient to justify limiting the liability of negligent tortfeasors
    by reference to some narrower criterion than that of reasonable foreseeability.
    stops short of indicating his view as to where the limit of liability should be
    drawn or as to the nature of the policy considerations (other than the
    " floodgates " argument, which I understand he rejects) which he would
    invoke to justify such a limit.

    My Lords, 1 would accordingly allow the appeal.

    3140441 Dd 8209971 C3 5/82

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