Berisha v Stone Superstore Ltd
County Court (Manchester)
Citations:  12 WLUK 53;  WL 6862531.
A man suffered a serious head injury at work and was put on life support at the local hospital. An hour and a half after the accident, the claimant was told by the police. The claimant arrived at the hospital four and a half hours after the accident. By this time, all medical treatment had been completed, though the man’s face was still swelling and he was becoming increasingly disfigured. The claimant was soon told that the man’s injuries were terminal. She remained by his side until he was taken off life support two days later. This experience inflicted psychiatric harm on the claimant.
The claimant sued the man’s employer in negligence as a secondary victim. The employer applied for summary judgement on the grounds that the claimant had no prospect of showing sufficient spacial and temporal proximity to the event or its immediate aftermath, as required under the Alcock criteria.
- Did the claimant have spacial and temporal proximity to the immediate aftermath of the event?
The County Court held for the defendants. The claimant had not witnessed the event or its immediate aftermath.
This Case is Authority For…
It is very difficult for a claimant to succeed in establishing proximity as a secondary victim where they witness something at the hospital. Generally, by the time an injured person is delivered to a hospital, the event and its immediate aftermath are over.
Proximity in those circumstances will only be established if:
- The claimant attended the scene of the accident during the immediate aftermath and the scene in the hospital was a continuation of what the claimant witnessed; or
- What the claimant witnessed at the hospital is far more chaotic and distressing than the norm.
This case indicates the tightness of the window of proximity for secondary victims. The judge stressed that the few hours which had passed since the accident reinforced his conclusion that there was no proximity.