Third-party torts claims against trusts appear to be uncommon, so Buck v Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (27 March 2012) is significant. Buck was a bus driver whose route included Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. As he drove on to the hospital grounds, a mental patient threw himself under Buck’s bus and died. Buck sued the trust which administers the hospital, claiming damages resulting from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yelton J of the English Southeastern Circuit Court (author of Trams, Trolleybuses, Buses and the Law (2004) and Fatal Accidents: A Practical Guide to Compensation (1998)) ruled that Buck could recover only if he could establish that there was a relationship between him and the trust, and some assumption of responsibility for him on the part of the trust. Although a hospital may be responsible for the negligent release of a patient, no duty is owed to a third party who suffers harm at the hands of the patient unless the third party was an identifiable victim at the time of the release. Buck wasn’t and therefore couldn’t show that the trust owed him a duty of care.