Intentional infliction of emotional distress: Wilkinson v Downton revisited by UKSC

In a medical treatment context, the authorities regarding intentional infliction of emotional distress may not usually be relevant, though perhaps in breach of confidence / privacy cases.

The United Kingdom Supreme Court yesterday published its comprehensive and quite interesting decision revisiting old and newer decisions on the topic, in James Rhodes v OPO & Anor [2015] UKSC 32.

The unusual facts concerned an action by a mother, seeking to restrain a father from publishing a book containing material which might cause psychological harm to their 12 year old child.

The court at [87] and at [112] concluded that recklessness was not sufficient for the necessary mental element of the tort.

All members of the court concluded (in two joint judgments) that there was no arguable case that the father had actual intention to cause psychiatric harm or severe mental or emotional distress to the child. An earlier order striking out the mother’s claim was restored.