Shorter v S&S HC NHS Trust [23 March 2015]

This was a claim for nervous shock by the sister of the deceased as a secondary victim. Mrs Lucia Sharma died aged 37 as a result of a subarachnoid haemorrhage (“SAH”) on 13 May 2009. On 5 May 2009 she presented with a history of severe headache and collapse; the CT was reported as normal. She underwent no futher innvestigations (no lumbar puncture).

On 12 May 2009 a second opinion on the CT suggested evidence of SAH. She was contacted and admitted; she suffered a catastrophic SAH and died shortly after admission.

The primary claim for negligent failure to detect the SAH originaally was settled. The index claim was not successful.

This case contains an extremely helpful review of the law of nervous shock for secondary victims in the context of clinical negligence:

Mrs Justice Swift

“208…The early claims by secondary victims mainly concerned accidents, most often road traffic accidents. In those cases, it was comparatively easy to identify the relevant “event” (the accident) although, as the authorities show, it was often more difficult to determine precisely what constituted the “immediate aftermath” of an event … 209 … Cases of clinical negligence present particularly difficult problems. The factual background of cases can be very different and often quite complex. The nature and timing of the “event” to which the breach of duty gives rise will vary from case to case.”