His case, though, was rejected by the Court of Appeal, which suggested that practical and policy reasons militated against allowing him to recover damages. Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said:

In my judgment both as a matter of principle and policy the court should not extend the duty to those who are mere bystanders or witnesses of horrific events unless there is a sufficient degree of proximity, which requires both nearness in time and place and a close relationship of love and affection between plaintiff and victim.

Would someone please explain how to determine which definition of duty applies here? I can't distinguish. Definition 1 looks correct, if I consider duty as 'responsibility of the law'. Yet Definition 3 looks right too, if duty = payment (in the form of damages) ?

Source: P95, How the Law Works, Gary Slapper

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  • 1
    duty is definitely talking about responsibility here – user3306356 Jul 7 '14 at 10:17

Context, context, context! You establish the meaning by reading the passage in its larger context.

It is provided in sufficient part here.

There it is made clear that the duty involved is the duty of care: the legal obligation of one person to provide medical relief for illness or injury suffered by another.

This particular sentence was uttered in the decision respecting a case where an employee who witnessed a terrible accident at the oilrig where he worked sued his employer for the nervous shock he suffered. The Court here holds that that duty should not extend to the employer in this instance.


Duty, in the sense of responsibility, burden or obligation.

duty (ˈdjuːtɪ)

  1. a task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons

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