Vernon v Bosley  1 All ER 577, CA
Medically recognised mental harm
In August 1982 the plaintiff’s two young daughters were being driven in a car by their nanny, the defendant, when it went off the road and crashed into a river.
The plaintiff did not himself see the accident when it happened but was called to the scene following the incident where he witnessed firemen’s attempt to save his trapped children from the car. The rescue was unsuccessful and the children drowned.
At the time of the tragedy the plaintiff was running his own company but the business failed in 1986 and in 1992 his marriage failed too. The plaintiff brought a claim against the defendant on the basis that the defendant’s negligence had caused him psychiatric harmas he was the eye-witness of the failed rescue attempt.
The defendant admitted her negligence for the accident but argued that the failure of plaintiff’s business and marriage was due to his own shortcomings. The defendant said that the plaintiff’s condition was simply grief (and therefore a normal human emotion and not a medically recognised condition for which damages could be awarded).
The Court of Appeal decided that the plaintiff was suffering from nervous shock, a condition which is distinct from grief and hence it was a medically recognized injury; for which damages should be paid.