Bourhill v Young [1943]: Case Analysis

Bourhill v Young: Case Summary

The Claimant was pregnant and disembarked a tram, the defendant then got into a car accident on his motorbike 50 feet away and was killed on impact. The Claimant, a short time later proceeded to walk past where the incident had taken place and saw a large amount of blood where the incident had taken place, causing her to go into shock and her baby was still born. She brought a negligence claim against the Defendant’s estate however no duty of care was owed by the Defendant to the Claimant.

Bournhill v Young: Download the Full Judgment Transcript Here

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Click to Download Bourhill v Young [1943] AC 92

Bourhill v Young: Case Analysis

This Scottish case is important in that it establishes the extent of the duty owed by an individual to ensure that others are not harmed by their activities. In particular, the case establishes the limits on recovery for bystanders and holds that a woman who suffered psychiatric harm after witnessing the scene of a motorcycle accident is not considered to be a foreseeable victim as she was not in immediate danger of physical harm.

Lord Russell’s judgment in particular highlights that it is difficult to make out that a duty of care is owed to unforeseeable victims:

“The appellant was not within his vision, but was standing behind the solid barrier of the tramcar. His speed in no way endangered her. In these circumstances I am unable to see how he could reasonably anticipate that, if he came into collision with a vehicle coming across the tramcar into Glenlockhart Road, the resultant noise would cause physical injury by shock to a person standing behind the tramcar. In my opinion, he owed no duty to the appellant, and was, therefore, not guilty of any negligence in relation to her.”

Lord Russell, Bourhill v Young [1943] AC 92

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