Dooley v Cammell Laird & Co Ltd – Case Summary

Dooley v Cammell Laird & Co Ltd

Dooley v Mersey Insulation Co Ltd

Assizes (Liverpool)

Citations: [1951] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 271; [1947-51] CLY 6664.


The claimant was a crane driver who worked for the first defendant. The first defendant loaned the claimant out to the second defendant to work on a ship in the first defendant’s shipyard. The second defendant provided the claimant with a defective crane sling which broke, causing heavy material to fly onto the hold of the ship where there were other workers.

The claimant suffered psychiatric harm, believing that his operation of the crane had killed or seriously hurt someone. He sued the first defendant for breach of certain statutory duties relating to shipyard conditions. He sued the second defendant in negligence, alleging that they owed him a duty of care which they breached by providing the defective equipment.

  1. Did the second defendant owe the claimant a duty of care to protect him from psychiatric harm?

The Court held in favour of the claimant. The first defendant was liable for breach of statutory duty. The second defendant owed the claimant a duty of care, since the harm was foreseeable. The first defendant was entitled to be indemnified for some of the damages by the second defendant, however.

This Case is Authority For…

An employer owes their employees a duty of care not to inflict psychiatric injury by making them reasonably believe they have been the cause of another’s death or serious injury.


Later cases have interpreted Dooley as establishing a discrete category of ‘primary victim’ for those who are not within the zone of danger. See for example Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1991] UKHL 5.