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Liability for Omissions in Tort Law Essay

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There is a strict distinction between acts and omissions in tort of negligence. “A person is often not bound to take positive action unless they have agreed to do so, and have been paid for doing so.” (Cane.2009; 73) The rule is a settled one and allows some exceptions only in extreme circumstances. The core idea can be summarized in “why pick on me” argument. This attitude was spectacularly demonstrated in a notoriously known psychological experiment “The Bystander effect” (Latané & Darley. 1968; 377-383). Through practical scenarios, psychologists have found that bystanders are more reluctant to intervene in emergency situations as the size of the group increases. Such acts of omission are hardly justifiable in moral sense, but find some legal support. “A man is entitled to be as negligent as he pleases towards the whole world if he owes no duty to them.” (L Esher Lievre v Gould [1893] 1 Q.B. 497) Definitely, when there is no sufficient proximity between the parties, a legal duty to take care cannot be lawfully exonerated and imposed, as illustrated in Palmer v Tees Health Authority [1999] All ER (D) 722). If it could, individuals would have been in the permanent state of over- responsibility for others, neglecting their own needs. Policy considerations in omission cases are not inspired by the parable of Good Samaritan ideas. Judges do favour individualism as it “permits the avoidance of vulnerability and requires self-sufficiency. “ (Hoffmaster.2006; 36)
Psychiatric harm
The dubious character of nervous shock claims received strong criticism in the past and is still not fully recognised in the present. (Teff. 1998; 92) The main reason underpinning hostile attitude to review the claims is the uncertai...


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...laims generated by genetic technology, 1st ed., Routledge, Oxon
Journal Articles
• Atiyah, P. (1967) Negligence and Economic Loss, Law Quarterly Review, 83, 270
• Darley, J. M. & Latané, B. (1968) Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8, 377–383
• Hoffmaster, B. (2006) What Does Vulnerability Mean? , Hastings Center Report 38, 42, 36
• Lamont, W.D. (1941) Justice: Distributive and Corrective, Philosophy,16, 61, 11
• Mullender, R & Speirs, A (2000) Negligence, Psychiatric Injury, and the Altruism Principle, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 20,4, 645
• Teff, H. (1998) Liability for Negligently Inflicted Psychiatric Harm: Justifications and Boundaries, The Cambridge Law Journal 57,1, 92
• Weinrib,E.J. (2002) Corrective Justice in a Nutshell, University of Toronto Law Journal,52, 1


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