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Taylorson v Shieldness Produce Ltd [1994] PIQR 329  Court of Appeal

The claimants’ son was involved in a serious accident at school. He and another boy had climbed on to a rear step of the back of a van delivering food to the school. The van reversed at speed and both boys were pulled under the van. The other boy was killed instantly, the claimant’s son was taken to hospital where he died three days later from the injuries. The head master called the claimants informing them of the incident. They went to the hospital where they were told that he was being transferred to another hospital and they followed the ambulance. They saw him briefly on the trolley. He was unconscious and had blood on his face. On arrival at the hospital he was taken to intensive care unit and the claimants were not permitted to see him whilst he was receiving treatment. Late evening they were told they could see him if they wished. Mr Taylorson saw him he had severe injuries and he advised Mrs Taylorson not to see him. The following day they returned to the hospital and both saw him. He was still unconscious, unresponsive and unrecognisable. They remained at his bedside for the duration of his life. They brought an action against the defendant for the psychiatric injury they suffered as a consequence of witnessing the events.  The claim failed at trial and the claimants appealed.

Held:

The appeal was dismissed. The claimants although in attendance at the hospital when he arrived, saw little of their son until several hours later when he had been stabilised. The psychiatric injury suffered, according to medical evidence, grew out of a whole sequence of events extending over an appreciable period of time and could not be attributed to one shocking event.

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