In Speirs v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust (Unreported, December 2014) a mother claimed damages for psychiatric injury which she said had arisen as a result of the shock of seeing one of her daughters who had been seriously damaged during an instrumental ‘ventouse’ birth. The judge dismissed the mother’s claim on the grounds that she had not suffered a psychiatric injury as a result of the ‘event’ identified by the claimant.
In an extremely helpful article, Edward Bishop QC, who appeared for the Defendant in Speirs, sets out what a secondary victim must prove to establish his or her claim. Namely:
A close tie of love and affection with the person killed, injured or imperilled
Physical proximity to the incident in time and space
Direct perception of the incident
That he or she suffered a recognised psychiatric illness as a result of witnessing a sudden, shocking event.
As he says in his article, it is (d) which has arisen for particular consideration in recent case law. He goes on to examine the questions “did seeing the ‘event’ cause a ‘recognised psychiatric illness? What is meant by ‘an event’? And how ‘shocking’ must it be?” The article has been published in the October 2015 1 Chancery Lane Personal Injury Briefing.