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Dulieu v White  [1901] 2 KB 669  High Court King’s Bench

The claimant was pregnant and behind the bar in her husband’s public house. A horse and cart crashed into the pub. The claimant was not physically injured but feared for her safety and suffered shock. She gave birth prematurely nine days later and the child suffered developmental problems.

Held:

An action could lie in negligence for nervous shock arising from a reasonable fear for one’s own immediate safety.

Kennedy J:

“If impact be not necessary, and if, as must be assumed here, the fear is proved to have naturally and directly produced physical effects, so that the ill results of the negligence which caused the fear are as measurable in damages as the same results would be if they arose from an actual impact, why should not an action for those damages lie just as well as it lies where there has been an actual impact ? It is not, however, to be taken that in my view every nervous shock occasioned by negligence and producing physical injury to the sufferer gives a cause of action. There is, I am inclined to think, at least one limitation. The shock, where it operates through the mind, must be a shock which arises from a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury to oneself.”

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