Wicks and Sheehan v state rail authority: yet another public policy dilemma

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In Wicks v State Rail Authority of New South Wales; Sheehan v State Rail Authority of New South Wales [2010] HCA 22, the Australian High Court grappled with provisions of New South Wales legislation limiting claims for damages for mental harm. The Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) limits claims by plaintiffs for damages for pure mental harm, resulting from harm to another person, which in turn was caused by the defendant. The creation of this restriction was one of a number of tort reforms passed by parliaments around Australia. The High Court's consideration of the case highlights the difficult policy questions involved in determining liability for psychiatric injury. The decision also demonstrates that Australia does not have a coherent national approach to claims for damages for pure mental harm resulting from negligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-494
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Civil liability
  • Damages
  • Duty of care
  • Ipp report
  • Mental harm
  • Negligence
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychiatric injury
  • Statutory interpretation
  • Tort

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