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Atkinson v Seghal, Court of Appeal

31 March 2003
The issues

Nervous shock – psychiatric illness – North Glamorgan NHS Trust -v- Ceri Walters.

The facts

The Claimant’s daughter was injured in a road traffic accident and died as a result of her injuries. Because the daughter was late home, the mother went out to look for her and came across an area that the Police had cordoned off. She tried to cross it and was told by a Policeman that her daughter was dead. Later that evening she visited the Mortuary and on confirmation from the father that the body was of the daughter, she collapsed sobbing and suffered an extreme reaction. She had seen her daughter’s disfigured face and head. The Recorder found against the Claimant on the basis that no claim for shock could be based on being told of death and that the events at the Mortuary were not part of the aftermath of the accident and moreover, that the shock causing the disorder resulted from what she had been told by the Police Officer, rather than the accident.

The Claimant appealed.

The decision

1. Following North Glamorgan NHS Trust -v- Walters an event could be made up of a number of discreet instances. In this case, the immediate aftermath extended from the moment of the accident until the moment the mother left the Mortuary.

2. It was artificial to separate the Mortuary visit, which as far as the mother was concerned, amounted to completing the story.

Appeal allowed.

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