Hambrook v Stokes Case is a leading tort law case related to Nervous Shock in which scope of nervous shock was explained.
Facts of Hambrook v Stokes:
1. The defendants (respondents herein) are the owners of a motor lorry, which was left by their servant unattended with the engine running, and which ran down a narrow street just 6 ft. wide.
2. The plaintiff’s case was that his children, at the time the lorry came down the street, were on their way to school where the lorry might strike them, the street being so narrow and the lorry swaying from side to side of the street. This progress of the lorry would be heard by those round the corner, including Mrs Hambrook (deceased wife of plaintiff). She got nervous shock by the apprehension of injury to her children.
3. Plaintiff sued defendants in lower Court where the Court didn’t award compensation for the damage to the plaintiff relying on Kennedy J’s statement in Dulieu v. White & Sons as “shock must arise from a reasonable fear of immediate injury to oneself”.
4. Therefore, this appeal.
1. Plaintiff contends that the shock to his wife was due to fear of immediate personal injury to herself, or of injury to her children, and that her death resulted from the shock.
2. Defendants contend that the shock was because of a fear of injury to her children, which did not give rise to any cause of action, and, further, that the wife’s death was due to quite independent causes.
Whether it is necessary that the shock must be a shock that arises from a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury to oneself?
Ratio & Decision:
1. Bankes, J:
- The plaintiff would establish a cause of action if he proved to the satisfaction that the death of his wife resulted from the shock by the act of the defendant; that the shock resulted from what the plaintiff’s wife either saw or realized by her own unaided senses, and not from something which someone told her.
- The shock was because of a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury, either to herself or to her children. The judgment for the defendants must be set aside and a new trial ordered.
2. Atkin, J:
- If the plaintiff can prove that her injury directly resulted from a wrongful act or omission by the defendant, she can recover, whether the wrong is a malicious and willful act, is a negligent act, or is merely a failure to keep a dangerous thing in control as, for instance, a failure to keep a lorry in control.
- Once a breach of duty to the plaintiff is established, whether the wrongdoer could reasonably expect the consequences becomes immaterial.
The question is whether the consequences causing damage directly resulting from the wrongful act or omission. The case must go for a new trial.
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