Jaensch v Coffey [1984] HCA 52

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Facts

  • Mrs Coffey’s husband was seriously injured by the negligent driving of Jaensch.
  • After seeing her husband in hospital and being told he probably would not make it, Mrs Coffey suffered a nervous shock, particularly after seeing Mr Coffey with “all these tubes coming out of him.”
  • Mr Coffey survived, but the damage was done.
  • Mrs Coffey commenced proceedings against Mr Jaensch in the Supreme Court of South Australia, seeking compensation for the nervous shock and loss of consortium she suffered.
  • She was successful at trial and in the subsequent appeal by Mr Jaensch.  Mr Jaensch appealed to the High Court.

Issue

  • Could Mrs Coffey recover for nervous shock and damages for loss of consortium and interest?

Held

  • It was more than reasonable foreseeability, proximity was also relevant. Mrs Coffey satisfied this test.
  • The doctrine was extended beyond those who actually see the event, to those who perceive its direct aftermath.
  • It is necessary to actually perceive the aftermath, not just learn about it (to avoid a ‘shoot the messenger’ scenario).

Full Text

The full text is available here:  https://jade.io/summary/mnc/1984/HCA/52


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