Mustapha had purchased bottled water from Culligan for 15 years. The last time he witnessed the delivery he saw a dead fly, and parts of another dead fly in one of the unopened bottles. This image severely scarred him, causing significant psychological harm. He is suing for the psychiatric harm resulting from the negligence of Culligan claiming he could no longer drink, shower, or have sex as a result.
- How do you determine if there is recoverable psychological harm
Appeal and cross appeal dismissed.
McLachlin, writing for the court, states that just as in any negligence claim, to get recovery for psychiatric harm you must prove that there was a duty owed, a breach of the standard of care, resulting damage, causation and sufficient proximity. In this case it is clear that there was a duty of care owed, as manufacturers owe a duty of care to their consumers (Donoghue v Stevenson), and it is also clear that the Culligan's conduct breached this duty. There was definitely damage suffered as Mustapha developed a major depressive disorder which had a significant impact on his life. It is also proven that this damage was caused by the breach of the duty. However, in the remoteness question you must consider if the breach would result in psychiatric harm to a reasonable person. If it is determined that it would, then the "thin skull" rule applies. However, in this case there is no question that this breach would not result in the psychiatric harm of a reasonable person. Although this extreme reaction was imaginable, it was not reasonably foreseeable – which is the standard in negligence law. However, she does state that if Culligan had known of Mustapha's particular vulnerability, then this type of damage would be reasonably foreseeable.
- In order to make a successful claim of recover for psychiatric harm you must prove all the necessary elements of any negligence claim, however, the damage will be seen as too remote if the breach would not have resulted in the psychiatric harm of a reasonable person.
- If the defendant knew that the plaintiff had a particular vulnerability to psychiatric harm before the breach, then psychiatric harm is reasonably foreseeable.