Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co [2008] 1 AC 281

Key point

To be recoverable, psychiatric illness must be caused by an immediate shock not a delayed one


  • C had been exposed to asbestos but did not know until he was informed by his doctor 30 years later
  • The risk of developing a health condition led C to worry so much that he developed clinical depression
  • C argued that Page v Smith applied as even though no physical injury had resulted from exposure to asbestos, physical injury was reasonably foreseeable

Held (House of Lords)

C’s claim was rejected

Lord Hoffmann

  • The current case can be distinguished from Page v Smith on the basis that C’s illness was not caused by the immediate effects of a past traumatic event: it was triggered by his awareness of the risk of developing a condition: [95]
  • Furthermore, in Page v Smith, the event causing the risk of physical and psychiatric injury was one and the same (being the accident) but here the risk of physical injury was caused by exposure to asbestos: [96]