The recovery of emotional harm—mental distress in the widest sense of the term—has long bedevilled the English law of tort. Whereas the compensation of financial loss appears systematic and grounded in clear principles, that of harms on the other side of the divide between “having” and “being” seems the realm of haphazardness. The article on which this talk will be based is a search for general principles in a field that has largely eschewed them. It argues that, properly examined and understood, the law does in fact closely approximate a strikingly simple proposition, namely, that every wrong entitles the claimant to compensation for the ensuing emotional harm. This should be recognised and worked out systematically. It also explores some of the implications of, difficulties with, and alternatives to this proposition.

The paper, written in the context of English law, will be circulated in advance and prior reading is encouraged. The oral presentation will talk about these issues in a more comparative fashion. To obtain a copy of the paper, please write to John Cartwright or Birke Häcker.


A sandwich lunch will be provided.