• In the case of Galli Atkinson v Seghal 2003 ewca civ 697, negligence, an act or a failure to act, that breaches a duty of care, in this case, concerns psychiatric injury as a result of identifying the corpse of a close family member in the wake of a fatal incident may be considered sufficient proximity to be deemed part of the immediate aftermath to render the tortfeasor liable.

Facts of the Case

  • The defendant, Mr. Seghal’s, negligent driving killed the claimant, Galli Atkinson’s teenage daughter.
  • The claimant got to the scene of the fatal accident around an hour after it happened, upon arrival Galli did not see her daughter’s body, she was merely alerted of the severe accident.
  • A police officer told her that her daughter was dead, however, Galli was in denial about this. A few hours later Galli attended the mortuary and finally saw her daughter’s lifeless, badly disfigured body.
  • The claimant, Mrs. Atkinson’s, suffered from psychiatric illness, expert evidence later indicated that this was due to the totality of Mrs. Atkinson’s visit to the accident site, notification of her daughter’s death, and seeing her disfigured body.

Issues in Galli Atkinson v Seghal 2003 ewca civ 697

  • What constitutes the immediate aftermath in this case?
    • and did the claimant Mrs. Galli perceive and suffer shock from the immediate aftermath of the accident so much so that the defendant Is to owe a duty of care to the claimant?

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the claimant.

Lord Justice Latham  

  • the test in this case was proximity, as elaborated on by Lord justice Latham. In his explanation he stated, the mother’s visit to the mortuary could not be left out of the immediate aftermath of the accident. Reason being that those events stretched from the moment of the accident until the moment the mother left the mortuary.
  • There could even be an unbroken chain of events from the discovery of the body and the events of the mortuary. An event and the immediate aftermath alike, can both be made up of different components, provided that the circumstances alleged to constitute the aftermath retain sufficient proximity to the event.

Justice Wilson

  • It was stated by Justice Wilson that ordinarily, a visit to the mortuary is more likely to be set aside from the immediate aftermath if its purpose is to merely identify the body. It is more likely to fall within the immediate aftermath when it occurs shortly after the accident and its purpose is to convince the claimant that their loved one is dead.