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Wilkinson v. Downton

Queen’s Bench
[1897] 2 Q.B. 57


Facts

Downton (defendant), as a practical joke, told Wilkinson (plaintiff) that her husband had been terribly injured in a car accident and that she should go to him at once. All this was false. Wilkinson reacted to the news by vomiting and suffering a violent shock to her nervous system. She also suffered more permanent physical consequences requiring weeks of suffering, incapacity, and medical attention. These physical issues did not exist prior to Downton’s practical joke. Wilkinson sued Downton for actual damages and for damages caused by intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury awarded Wilkinson her actual damages in the form of transportation costs of traveling to her husband, as well as one hundred pounds for injuries caused by nervous shock. Downton appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Wright, J.)

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