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The Claimant was a child (aged 16 at trial and aged 5 at the time of the relevant events) whose case was that she sustained a psychiatric injury from witnessing the death of her 2-year-old brother in an ambulance, following the Defendant GP’s negligent failure urgently to refer the brother for hospital treatment for sepsis, the previous day.
This is the first reported secondary victim claim where the Court has considered the approach to be taken to the objective test for ‘shock’ in law, where the Claimant was a child at the time. It is also interesting on the issue of whether the relevant event for the purposes of the control mechanisms on secondary victim claims was the original appointment with the GP (as the Defendant contended) or the sudden deterioration and death of the Deceased primary victim (as the Claimant argued).
In addition there is a careful and detailed analysis of the medical evidence in such cases in order to determine why the Defendant’s evidence was preferred.
Ultimately, the Judge decided that the claim should be dismissed preferring the Defendant’s psychiatric evidence on diagnosis and causation and also finding that the Claimant failed to satisfy the key control mechanisms on such claims. The relevant event was the appointment with the GP, which was not shocking, not the consequential events in the ambulance.
This decision is likely to be of considerable interest to injury and clinical negligence practitioners as it is the first reported secondary victim claim by a child, as well as on the other points regarding the Alcock control mechanisms.
The full judgment is on this link.
For further details on the case, please see this BLM client alert:
Charles Bagot was instructed for the Medical Protection Society by Claire Fitzgerald of BLM Law, Manchester Office.
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