Q. ‘X’ a taxi-driver, negligently reversed his taxi into a small boy who was riding a tricycle on the road and slightly injured the boy. The boy’s mother heard the boy scream and looking out of an upstairs window of a house about eighty yards away saw the tricycle under the taxi but could not see the boy and being apprehensive for his safety she suffered severe nervous shock resulting in illness. She claims damages from ‘X’, the taxi driver. Discuss the chances of her success.
Civil Services (I.A.S.) Exam, 1974, 17th Bihar Judicial Service Exam, 1977.
Ans: She has no chance of success – King v. Phillips, (1953) 1 QB 429.
Reasons: Facts of the given problem have been taken from the famous case of King v. Phillips. In this case it was held that defendant (taxi driver) is not liable for nervous shock of the plaintiff. It was further held that driver made a breach of duty to the boy but he did not owe any duty of care to the mother (plaintiff) because she was wholly outside the area of reasonable apprehension. In this case, Singleto, L.J. observed as follows—
“The driver owed a duty to the boy, but he knew nothing of the mother; she was not on the highway, he could not have known that she was at the window, nor was there any reason why he should anticipate that she would see his cab at all.”
In view of decision given in King v. Phillips, it can be said that in the given problem plaintiff cannot recover damages from the taxi driver ‘X’ and she has no chance of success in the suit.
However, it is notable that in a similar case Hambrook v. Stokes Bros., where the mother suffered nervous shock because of fear of injury to her children it was held that the plaintiff (mother) is entitled to recover damages because for an action in case of nervous shock, a person need not be in the area of physical injury to himself; it is sufficient that he is so placed that a shock could be caused to him by his seeing or hearing something. The view expressed in Hambrook v. Stokes Bros, appears to be more proper than the view expressed in King v. Phillips and is followed by courts in recent times.