Bourhill v Young Case Summary 1943

Bourhill v Young Case Summary 1943

Bourhill v Young Case involved psychiatric illness liability in tort. It was held that no one can claim the damages for nervous shock if the wrong done to someone else, as it was too remote.


  • The defender is representing Late John Young, who drove a motor-cycle too fast along an Edinburgh road, overtook a stationary tram-car on the inside and collided with an oncoming motor-car.
  • At the time, Mrs Euphemia Bourhill was standing at the offside of the tram-car. She could not see the crash, since the tram-car was in the way, but she heard it. She subsequently saw the blood left on the road after the removal of John Young’s corpse.
  • The violent collision thrown her into a state of terror and she sustained a very severe shock. The terror did not involve any element of reasonable fear of immediate bodily injury to her.
  •  This is an appeal by Mrs. Bourhill (plaintiff) against the order by the lower Court in favor of the defendant (John Young).

Issue and Contention:

  • The appellant claims the damages for the nervous shock received by the plaintiff as Late Young was negligent in the driving as it is the duty of driver to take reasonable care to prevent harm to anyone.
  • The defendant contends that John Young didn’t owe any duty and he could not have foreseen that the collision might cause injury by shock to the plaintiff; therefore, no cause of action arises out of the accident.

 Ratio & Decision:

1. Lord Macmillan: Late John Young was under no duty to the appellant to foresee that his negligence in driving at an excessive speed and colliding with a motor-car might cause injury to her, for such result could not reasonably and probably be anticipated. He was, therefore, not guilty of negligence in a question with the appellant.

2. Lord Thankerton: She was not situated as within the area of potential danger which the cyclists should reasonably have had in view. Therefore, he is not guilty of negligence.

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