Compensation for Emotional Loss in Tragic Case
Reviewed by Michaela Christie
This recent case considered the measure of damages that should be awarded under section 4 of the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, the Act for “loss of society”. This case cantered around the concept of “loss of society,” which pertains to the emotional impact experienced due to a tragic event.
Background of the case
The case revolved around a young woman who had been grappling with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder since her teenage years. Over time, she had undergone various treatments to manage her condition. However, a crucial issue arose when it was revealed that she had been discharged from treatment without adequate support. This lack of support led to a steep decline in her mental health, ultimately resulting in her attempting suicide. Despite efforts to save her, she tragically lost her life.
The Pursuit of Compensation: Seeking Justice
The mother of the deceased, referred to as the “First Pursuer,” took legal action to seek compensation for the insufficient support her daughter had received. During the trial, legal representatives argued that the responsibility of the deceased’s doctor should be viewed as a failure in treatment rather than merely a duty to prevent suicide. This reframing shifted the focus towards evaluating the quality of care and follow-up provided after the deceased left the hospital.
Negligence and its consequences
The critical timeframe under consideration was the period between the deceased’s hospital discharge and her untimely passing. Evidence presented in court demonstrated a foreseeable risk of the deceased attempting suicide during this interval. Previous instances of the deceased’s illness were brought to light, including occasions when she had been sedated due to severe episodes and subsequently stabilized with medication. It was evident that continuous treatment was vital for her stability. The absence of proper psychiatric follow-up care contributed to her mental health deteriorating, which was attributed to negligence.
Judicial Ruling: Addressing Emotional Suffering
The judge presiding over the case, known as the “Lord Ordinary,” awarded the First Pursuer £100,000 in compensation for the emotional distress caused by the loss of her daughter’s presence. This sum was determined by considering the distress experienced by the deceased before her passing. Additionally, other family members of the deceased were also granted damages. This case marked a significant milestone, as the First Pursuer’s claim was unprecedented given the circumstances. It is expected that resolving similar cases for lower compensation amounts will become progressively challenging in the future.
Implications and Lessons
In essence, this ruling underscore the significance of providing proper support and follow-up care to individuals grappling with mental health issues. It emphasises that neglect in treatment can lead to severe consequences. Furthermore, the decision sets a precedent for similar cases, making it increasingly difficult to settle such claims for reduced compensation amounts.
This recent legal case has highlighted the importance of addressing emotional suffering and the consequences of inadequate mental health support. The ruling has set a new standard for compensation in cases of emotional loss, with potential implications for future legal proceedings. As society becomes more attuned to the significance of mental health, such cases serve as a call to action for improved care and understanding.
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