The topic at hand is that of liability for psychiatric harmthat is negligently inflicted under tort law.
1It seeks to study if the various victims identified have a legitimate claimagainst Demon Hall for having negligently causing them psychiatric harm.Establishing this depends on whether a duty of care existed in law between Halland the victims. The legal test for duty of care is found in the case of CaparoIndustries Plc v Dickman.2It was stated in this case that a duty of care exists where the claimant muchhave been foreseeable with respect to the harm,3there must have been a relationship of proximity between the victim and thedefendant,4and it must be fair, just and reasonable to in the given circumstances toimpose a duty of care on the defendant.5Psychiatric harm essentially refers to the idea of liabilitybeing imposed on the defendant when the claim undergoes something in responseto a traumatic event. Indeed, where the claimant has suffered mental illness,neurosis or a personality change arising out of the traumatic event, thenpsychiatric harm can be found to exist. As Victorian Railways Commissioners vCoultas6shows, claims cannot be accommodated where the claimant has undergone emotionaldistress, grief or anguish, unless this positively caused a psychiatricillness.
The reason for this is that it would be difficult to assign a monetaryvalue to such harm, the necessity to prevent fictitious claims leading toexcessive litigation and issues in proving negligence accurately.7There are traditionally two main categories in whichpsychiatric harm can occur. The differentiating point between the twocategories is the question of whether or not the injured plaintiff was involvedmediately or immediately as the participant in the event or whether the plaintiffwas simply an unwilling and passive bystander witnessing the injury caused toothers.8The former refers to the victim being classified as a primary victim, while thelatter sees the victim being classified as a secondary victim. The distinctionis important as the secondary victims usually have to fulfil many more factorsbefore they can successfully prove that the defendant is liable for thepsychiatric harm.1 JMurphy, ‘Negligently inflicted psychiatric harm: A re-appraisal’, (1995) 15(3)Legal Studies, 4152Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman 1990 1 All ER 5683 Haleyv London Electricity Board 1965 AC 778; Bournhill v Young 1943 AC 924Goodwill v British Pregnancy Advisory Service 1996 1 WLR 13975Marc Rich & Co AG v Bishop Rock Marine Co Ltd 1996 AC 211; White v Jones1995 2 AC 2076 VictorianRailways Commissioners v Coultas (1888) 13 App Cas 2227 JMurphy, Street on Torts (12th edn, Oxford University Press, 2007) 678Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire 1992 1 AC 310 at 407, as per LordOliver