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Attia v British Gas Corporation  [1988] QB 304 Court of Appeal

The claimant engaged the defendant to install central heating in her home. She returned home from work and saw smoke coming from the loft. She called the fire brigade, but by time they had arrived the fire had taken hold and the whole house was burnt. The defendant’s accepted the fire was caused by their negligence and settled her claim in relation to the damage to the house and contents. However, the claimant also claimed that witnessing her house burning caused her psychiatric injury. The defendant disputed this part of the claim on the basis that it was not reasonably foreseeable that the claimant might suffer psychiatric injury as a result of their negligently starting the fire and even if it was foreseeable, as a matter of law, public policy would not allow recovery. They requested these matters to be decided as a preliminary issue, to determine whether a trial was needed. The High court decided the matter in favour of the defendant and the claimant appealed.

Held:

The appeal allowed. The case should go to trial to fully investigate the issues of foreseeability. There was no reason as a matter of law why the trial should not proceed.

Back to lecture outline on negligently inflicted psychiatric injury in tort law