Bourhill v Young, Facts, Decison, Issue, KeyPoint

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This is case is concerned with psychiatric injury in tort law

Facts of Bourhill v Young

Mrs bourhill was a pregnant fishwife and was a passenger on a tramway car. After she had alighted at a stop, and she was lifting her fish- basket from the driver’s platform. She heard the sound of a collision between a motor cycle and a car . the motor cyclist a certain john young, had been travelling at excessive speed and had been unable to avoid the car when it had crossed his path in order to make a right hand turn.

Young was thrown on the street and sustained injuries from which he died. The accident occurred some 45 or 50 feet away from where the claimant was standing, but out of her line of sight.

After the cyclists body had been removed, the claimant approached and saw the blood left on the road way.

She alleged that , as an immediate result of the violent collision and extreme shock of occurrence , she wrenched and injured her back and was thrown into the state of terror and sustained a very severe shock to her nervous system.

 At the time of the incident, she had been about eight months pregnant, and five weeks later she gave birth to a child which was a still-born as a result of her injuries


Whether she was a proximate victim to the accident or nor? Could she get damages for her psychiatric injury or not ?


The House of Lords (HOL) held that it was not reasonably foreseeable that a person of normal fortitude would have suffered nervous shock . One might have expected that , with the increasing public knowledge of psychiatric conditions, psychiatric illness would be regarded over time as reasonably foreseeable in a wider and a wider range of situations and the bounds of liability would be extended accordingly. Therefore here claim failed in the Scottish courts and the House of Lords(HOL)

Key point of bourhill v young

 1- If the courts have awarded mrs bourhill with damages it would have opened flood gates of litigation and everyone else affected with the accident would have come to claim damages

2- You must be  a primary victim or a secondary victim to the accident to claim damages