Goold and Kelly, ‘Who’s afraid of imaginary claims? Common misunderstandings of the origin of the action for pure psychiatric injury in negligence 1888-1943’

“In Victorian Railways Commissioners v Coultas, Sir Richard Couch famously stated that Mary Coultas’ injury, which was characterised as nervous shock resulting from fright occasioned by her near collision with a train, could not found a cause of action in negligence in part because: ‘The difficulty which now often exists in cases of alleged physical injuries of determining whether they were caused by the negligent act would be greatly increased, and a wide field opened for imaginary claims’. The view seemingly embedded in this sentence, that the court was sceptical about the existence of psychiatric injury, has been seized upon in nearly all historical accounts of the action for pure psychiatric injury in negligence to explain early judicial reluctance to award damages to claimants …”

Imogen Goold and Catherine Kelly, ‘Who’s afraid of imaginary claims? Common misunderstandings of the origin of the action for pure psychiatric injury in negligence 1888-1943’, (2022) 138 Law Quarterly Review (Jan) 58-78.

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