Charles Bagot KC successful in Supreme Court secondary victim appeals: Paul & others v Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust & others

12 Jan 2024

Paul v Royal Wolverhampton NHS; Polmear v Royal Cornwall NHS; & Purchase v Dr Ahmed [2024] UKSC 1 [for the full judgment click here].

In a landmark judgment, the UK Supreme Court by a 6-1 majority (Lord Burrows dissenting) has dismissed the Claimants’ conjoined appeals against the strike out of their psychiatric injury claims from witnessing the death of close relatives from the Defendants’ alleged (or admitted) clinical negligence.

The Supreme Court has decided that a Claimant cannot recover damages as a secondary victim unless the Claimant witnessed an accident (or its immediate aftermath) caused by the Defendant’s negligence. A claim cannot succeed where what is witnessed is a negligently caused medical crisis (or its immediate aftermath) which involves the suffering or death of a close relative from illness but no external accident. An accident is an external event which causes or has the potential to cause injury: it is not the injury, if there is one, caused by that accident. At the core of this conclusion was the Supreme Court’s view that Taylor v A. Novo Ltd [2014] QB 150* was correctly decided.

Central to the decision was the Supreme Court Justices’ view that it cannot be right to attribute to a doctor who enters into doctor-patient relationship, an assumption of responsibility for the health of members of the patient’s family. Therefore, no duty of care is owed by the doctor to those relatives in the circumstances. To impose such a responsibility on hospitals and doctors would go beyond what, in the current state of our society, is reasonably regarded as the nature and scope of their role.

Charles Bagot KC represented all three Defendants in the Court of Appeal in Paul, leading Charlotte Jones; and they both appeared with Simeon Maskrey KC for all the Defendants in the Supreme Court. They were instructed by Jonathan Fuggle and Hannah Wallace of Browne Jacobson LLP for the Defendants/Respondents in Paul and Purchase and by Joanna Lloyd and Alison Garrett of Bevan Brittan LLP for the Defendant/Respondent in Polmear.

*Charles also appeared for the successful Defendant (with Charles Cory-Wright QC) in Taylor v Novo [2013] QB 150, a Court of Appeal case which was at the core of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Paul.

Related barrister

Charles Bagot KC

Call: 1997 | Silk: 2018