Wilkinson v Downton

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Date1897
Year1897
CourtQueen's Bench Division
[QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION] WILKINSON v. DOWNTON. 1897 May 8. WRIGHT J.

Action - Cause of - Nervous Shock - Practical Joke causing - Remoteness of Damage.

The defendant, by way of a practical joke, falsely represented to the plaintiff, a married woman, that her husband had met with a serious accident whereby both his legs were broken. The defendant made the statement with intent that it should be believed to be true. The plaintiff believed it to be true, and in consequence suffered a violent nervous shock which rendered her ill:—

Held, that these facts constituted a good cause of action.

Victorian Railways Commissioners v. Coultas, (1888) 13 App. Cas. 222, and Allsop v. Allsop, (1860) 5 H. & N. 534, considered.

FURTHER CONSIDERATION before Wright J. after trial with a jury.

On April 9, 1896, Thomas Wilkinson, the husband of the plaintiff, went to a race-meeting, and on the evening of the same day the defendant came to the plaintiff's house and represented to her that her husband, while returning in a wagonette with some friends from the races, had met with an accident and had both his legs broken, that he was lying at The Elms public-house at Leytonstone, and had desired the defendant to request the plaintiff to go at once with a cab and some pillows to fetch him home. These statements were false. They were meant by the defendant to be believed to be true, and the plaintiff so believed them, with the result that she became seriously ill from a shock to her nervous system. She also on the faith of the defendant's statement incurred a small expense for railway fares of persons whom she sent to Leytonstone to see after her husband. The jury assessed the expense of the railway fares at 1s. 10½d., and the damages for the injury caused by the nervous shock at 100l.

It was contended on behalf of the defendant that so far as the damage caused to the plaintiff by nervous shock was concerned the action could not be supported.

Warburton, and A. N. Talbot, for the plaintiff.

Abinger, for the defendant.

WRIGHT J. In this case the defendant, in the execution of what he seems to have regarded as a practical joke, represented to the plaintiff that he was charged by her husband with a message to her to the effect that her husband was smashed up in an accident, and was lying at The Elms at Leytonstone with both legs broken, and that she was to go at once in a cab with two pillows to fetch him home. All this was false. The effect of the statement on the plaintiff was a violent shock to her nervous system, producing vomiting and other more serious and permanent physical consequences at one time threatening her reason, and entailing weeks of suffering and incapacity to her as well as expense to her husband for medical attendance. These consequences were not in any way the result of previous ill-health or weakness of constitution; nor was there any evidence of predisposition to nervous shock or any other idiosyncrasy.

In addition to these matters of substance there is a small claim for 1s. 10½d. for the cost of railway fares of persons sent by the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
185 cases
  • Christopher Walter and Another v Crossan Homes Ltd and Others
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 24 July 2014
    ...2011 IEHC 435 KELLY v HENNESSY 1995 3 IR 253 1996 1 ILRM 321 1995/19/4837 1995 IESC 8 WILKINSON v DOWNTON 1895-9 AER REP 267 76 LT 493 13 TLR 388 1897 2 QB 57 CONSTITUTION ART 40.3.2 Conveyancing – Conditions of Sale – Planning Permission – s. 154 & s. 160 of the Planning and Development Ac......
  • A B and Others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust and another
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 26 March 2004
    ...discussed the decision in Edmunds under the principal heading of an action for trespass to the person and following the decision of Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2QB 97. The difficulty with a claim under the Wilkinson v Downton principle is that it requires a deliberate and wilful misstatement......
  • Wainwright v Home Office
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 16 October 2003
    ...person. He arrived at this conclusion by the use of two strands of reasoning. First, he said that a line of authority starting with Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2 QB 57, which I shall have to examine later in some detail, had extended the conduct which could constitute trespass to the utteran......
  • O'C v Klh
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 22 June 2006
    ...v KELLY & MCDONNELL UNREP SUPREME COURT 6.4.2006 2006 IESC 26 MCMAHON & BINCHY IRISH LAW OF TORTS 3ED 2000 PARA 22.28 WILKINSON v DOWNTON 1897 2 QB 57 WAINRIGHT v HOME OFFICE 2003 3 WLR 1137 NON-FATAL OFFENCES AGAINST THE PERSON ACT 1997 Abstract: Practice and procedure - Mode of trial - Tr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
32 books & journal articles
  • Misfeasance in public office: a very peculiar tort.
    • Australia
    • Melbourne University Law Review Vol. 35 No. 1, April 2011
    • 1 April 2011
    ...185 CLR 307, 347 (Mason CJ, Dawson, Toohey, Gaudron and McHugh JJ), 357 (Brennan J). That language was borrowed from Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2 QB 57, 59, where Wright J had treated an obvious risk of harm as having been intended by a defendant who had given it no thought. Lord Hoffmann r......
  • Compensation for Harm to Intangible Interests: Non-pecuniary and Aggravated Damages
    • Canada
    • Irwin Books Remedies: The Law of Damages. Third Edition Compensatory Damages
    • 21 June 2014
    ...and knowingly making false accusations against a person may give rise to this action. Similarly, negligent 2 Wilkinson v Downton , [1897] 2 QB 57. See AM Linden & Bruce Feldthusen, Canadian Tort Law , 8th ed (Markham, ON: Butterworths, 2006) at 54–57. Compensation for Harm to Intangible Int......
  • Table of cases
    • Canada
    • Irwin Books The Law of Torts. Sixth Edition
    • 25 June 2020
    ............................200 Wilk v Arbour, [2017] OJ No 164, 2017 ONCA 21, 135 OR (3d) 708 ................ 104 Wilkinson v Downton, [1897] 2 QB 57, 76 LT 493 ....................................282, 283 Willers v Joyce, [2016] UKSC 43, [2018] AC 779, [2017] 2 All ER 327, [2016] UKSC 43, [......
  • Table of cases
    • Canada
    • Irwin Books Remedies: The Law of Damages. Third Edition Limiting Principles
    • 21 June 2014
    ...124 .......................................................... 64 Wilkesman v 230696 Alberta Ltd. See Woods v Alberta Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2 QB 57, 66 LJQB 493, [1895–99] All ER Rep 267 ........................................................................... 242 Wilkinson v Whitloc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT