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SECONDARY VICTIM PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESS CLAIMS

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Abstract:

The court of Appeal's decision in North Glamorgan NHS Trust v Walters vindicates the Law Commission's view that the law governing tort liability for psychiatric illness should be reformed and clarified. As in every case where a claimant has suffered psychiatric illness brought on by the death of a person with whom the claimant has had a close tie of love and affection, and whose death has been caused by the defendant's negligence, the facts of the Walters case were tragic. Notwithstanding the sympathy that one must naturally feel for such claimants, however, the successful claim for pathological grief reaction in this case has further confused the legal principles which govern the difficult area of negligently inflicted psychiatric illness. Although their Lordships denied it, it will be argued here that the appellate judges in the Walters case may have extended the existing law in order to allow the claim. It will also be considered how the claim would have fared in the event that the Law Commission's proposals for change to the law had been implemented. It will be concluded that if these proposals had been implemented, then the legal conundrum posed by the case could have been resolved in a much clearer and fairer way, with due attention paid to the principal policy concern which arises in this type of case.

Keywords: North Glamorgan NHS Trust v Walters; Secondary Victim Psychiatric Illness Claims; Tort Liability for Psychiatric Illness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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