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Article Review: A commentary on Nervous Shock as a cause of action in Torts by-D.Hughes Parry

Title: A commentary on Nervous Shock as a cause of action in Torts by - D. Hughes Parry.
Citation: Bluebook 21st ed. D. Hughes Parry, Nervous Shock as a Cause of Action in Tort, 41 L. Q. REV. 297 (1925).

The article talks about the redressal for a wrong committed by an individual which injures the nervous system of other individual. There is no conclusive ground upon which such acts can be assumed as torts. Scholars say that, an act causing loss or damage to nervous system should be punished under tort law because nervous system is as much a part of a person’s body as are his limbs or his reputation.

The reasons for this state of Nervous Shock laws:
It has been put forward that nervous shock is a comparatively recent innovation in tort law. It came into the light when cause and action can be well defined and distinguished thus, making it difficult to classify an act causing nervous shock. Actions causing nervous shock can not be easily testified because there exists no physical cause and effect relationship.

The detection of affection to the nervous system is difficult for common beings, it requires specially trained individuals. The third reason for non-classification of nervous shocks as a cause if action in tort is their indefinite and subjective character and the consequent difficulty in ascertaining their nature and their cause. It is a peculiar fact that the number of cases of nervous shock in England are way too less than in America.

Development of Nervous shock laws:
The judgment of Purcell v. Railroad Co., 48 Minn. 134 and Mack v. South Bound Railroad Co., changed the way in which matters relating to nervous shock were approached. The concept of rule of liability was established in these cases along with some principles which are as follows:

The plaintiff has to prove that:
  1. An act committed by the defendant:
  2. Consequent nervous shock suffered directly by the plaintiff; and
  3. Physical injury resulting from the nervous shock.

Physical impact:
A component of harm of this nature, which in specific circumstances the law grants to be considered in assessing the recoverable harm however which it doesn't permit to be considered in deciding the essential inquiry of liability, has been fittingly depicted " by Professor Roscoe Pound as parasitic.

Spoken words:
Spoken words leading to fright followed by terminal illness is recognized as cause of action for nervous shock. The damage caused by such spoken words should be contemplated or direct. Even if the statement is untrue and it causes shock to the plaintiff then the defendant must be held liable.

An act or omission or conduct which causes fright to the plaintiff:
This principle introduces in unmistakable form a doctrine of identification or association. The act complained of must be one which causes reasonable fear of immediate personal injury to oneself or one's children or one's husband or wife.

Nervous Shock is a shock to nerve and brain structures of the body. It is a term used to denote Psychiatric injury or illness, inflicted upon a person by intentional or negligent actions or omissions of another. It is most often applied to psychiatric disorders triggered by witnessing an accident, for example an injury caused to one's parents or spouse.

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