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Kralj v McGrath [1986] 1 All ER 54

PSYCHIATRIC INJURY – REMOTENESS OF DAMAGE - QUANTIFICATION OF DAMAGES

Facts

Whilst attempting to deliver twins, the defendant medical professional put his arm inside the plaintiff in an attempt to manipulate one of the unborn children. The child died shortly afterwards as a result of this treatment which was accepted to have been negligent. The mother suffered grief which also gave rise to nervous shock and caused a delay in her physical recovery from the ordeal. She sought damages for psychiatric injury and for the future financial cost of having another child (as she and her husband already had one but had planned to have three in total).

Issue

There were two principal issues at stake: firstly, whether an award of aggravated damages was appropriate to reflect the distress and psychiatric injuries caused to the mother; secondly, whether the cost associated with having another child to replace one which had died was too remote to be recoverable.

Held

The court held that although aggravated damages are not generally appropriate in cases of medical negligence, particular distress which has delayed the patient’s recovery may be taken into account when assessing the quantum of compensatory damages. Similarly, although grief is not a recoverable loss in and of itself, where it gives rise to nervous shock which delays recovery damages may be awarded to reflect this.

The financial cost of a future pregnancy was held not to be too remote a consequence of the medical negligence, and was accordingly recoverable in principle.


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