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Negligence, causation and remoteness case. To advise the claimants, Abdul, Brian and Christie, it is necessary to establish whether a duty of care was owed to them and that physical or psychological harm resulted from an act of negligence. From the facts

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Introduction

Skyride Ltd operated a theme park in Nottingly. The most popular ride was the roller coaster. The carriages on the roller coaster were attached to the rails by coupling devices that needed to be regularly checked. During the busy summer season, one of the carriages, with someone in it, came off the rails and plunged 100 metres to the ground. Subsequent investigations showed that Skyride Ltd had negligently failed to check the coupling devices regularly, and that this was the cause of the accident. Advise the following as to their remedies, if any, in tort:- i) Abdul was in the carriage immediately behind the one that plunged to the ground. He was terrified that his carriage would also come off the rails, and has now suffered a recurrence of a mental illness that he had been treated for in the past. ii) Brian's teenage son, Dave, was in the carriage that plunged to the ground. Brian was telephoned at home and told which hospital his son had been taken to. When he arrived at the hospital he was told that his son was in intensive care. Six hours later his son suffered a massive brain haemorrhage that required an emergency operation. The following day, Brian, who had spent the night at his son's bedside, was advised that the operation had been unsuccessful and that his son was brain dead. He agreed to have the life support machine turned off. ...read more.

Middle

[1996] A.C.1554 It is probable that Abdul will have a claim in Tort. He is a primary victim. He would not need to satisfy any test of fortitude of the ordinary man (assuming that his mental illness is recognised); so therefore Abdul should succeed. Brian was not present at the scene. His son Dave was in the carriage that plummeted to the ground. Dave died in hospital and Brian give permission for his son's life support to be switched off. Brian may not be suffering a recognised psychiatric Illness. He has anxiety and nightmares. In Alcock1 Dr. O'Connell's generic report describes the symptoms of "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" which are similar to Brian's; therefore I shall assume Brian's illness will satisfy the tests. Hambrook v Stokes5, in this case a mother had taken her children part way to school, leaving them to walk the remainder alone. An unattended lorry became out of control and careered down the hill into the path of some children. The mother did not directly witness the collision, but was nearby and heard the accident. A bystander told her that a child had been hurt and the resulting shock caused her to become unwell. She later suffered a miscarriage with further complications which eventually this led to her death. The claim succeeded even though she had no fear for her own safety; it was granted out of fear for her children. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is the mere perception of foreseeable harm which assisted in this case; in his summary Waller J. stated: ...although there was clearly an element of personal danger in what Mr. Chadwick was doing, I think I must deal with this case on the basis that it was the horror of the whole experience which caused his reaction...9 White v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire2 the claimants were all police officers and denied damages on appeal. The lords considered if they were able to proceed as primary victims, thereby avoiding the rules set out in Alcock1 for secondary victims. In refusing to accept them as primary victims, Lord Steyn stated; ... in order to contain the concept of rescuer in reasonable bounds for the purposes of the recovery of compensation for pure psychiatric harm the plaintiff must at least satisfy the threshold requirement that he objectively exposed himself to danger or reasonably believed that he was doing so...2 This statement diminishes Chadwick9; victims will have to perceive a danger of harm to succeed rather than rely of the enormity and horror of the whole experience. In consideration of Christie's status as a secondary victim she is unlikely to have a claim in Tort as she cannot satisfy "close ties of love and affection"; there is no evidence that she perceived herself to be in danger when she assisted Dave; and in considering Christie's illness, "distress" does not qualify as a recognised psychological disorder. ...read more.

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