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Tort Cases: McLoughlin v O'Brian [1983] 1 AC 410

An English tort law case, decided by the House of Lords, dealing with the possibility of recovering for psychiatric harm suffered as a result of an accident in which one's family was involved. It was argued by counsel for the defence that, in order to recover damages for negligently induced nervous shock, C must demonstrate that he or she is sufficiently proximate to the event in question, in that they must be present at the scene which they allege has caused them to suffer psychiatric damage. The House of Lords were thus called upon to determine the nature and extent of the duty owed by D to persons whom his actions might cause psychiatric damage.

In finding for C the House of Lords emphasised that recovery in such cases was not limited to those who were participants in the event, and who feared that they or a close relative would suffer some sort of personal injuries. Citing Chadwick v British Railways Board ([1967] 1 WLR 912) the duty of D was confirmed to extend to those who came upon the ‘immediate aftermath’ of an incident, even if they do not see or hear the incident with their unaided senses.

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