A woman who learned her husband had been seriously injured in a loyalist bomb attack while she was in hospital can pursue a potentially landmark claim for damages, the High Court has ruled.
A judge dismissed an application to strike out 62-year-old Eileen O'Halloran's bid to secure compensation for the nervous shock she suffered at discovering her husband Martin was wounded by the blast in north Belfast in April 1975.
Lawyers for the PSNI and Ministry of Defence had argued that she did not meet the legal test for psychiatric injuries as a 'secondary victim' because she was neither at the scene nor witnessed the bombing.
But Master McCorry held that at this stage her claim remains arguable.
Mrs O'Halloran's legal representatives predicted the verdict could have wider implications for hundreds of others who weren't physically at the scene of terrorist atrocities during the Troubles.
Anurag Deb of KRW Law said: "This is a tragic case where our client was already suffering from the profound loss of her child when news of her husband's serious and life-threatening injuries caused her serious psychiatric injury.
"We say that the restrictions which the law has placed on secondary victims to claim for psychiatric injury in negligence claims should not apply to claims where an intentional harm was caused, as in this case."
Mrs O'Halloran is suing police and MoD over alleged state collusion with the bombers.
Her husband was injured in the bomb attack as he waited for a bus on the corner of Oldpark Road and Ballynure Street, close to the Hole in the Wall bar.
The court heard he identified one of the bombers who lit the fuse as Trevor King, a notorious UVF commander who was subsequently murdered by the INLA in 1994.
At the time of the explosion Mrs O'Halloran was a patient in the Mater Hospital in north Belfast, recovering from the loss of their child.
She has stated she overheard that a man identified as her husband had been badly wounded in the attack.
The news left her traumatised and caused a psychiatric injury, according to her case.
However, the defendants have denied her contention that they are responsible due to the alleged involvement of state agents in either the planning or implementation of the attack.
They also argued that she was not a primary victim and has no case for any psychiatric injury.
She did not suffer physical injury, was not directly involved in the bombing, and did not directly witness the attack or its immediate aftermath, it was claimed.
Ruling on the application to strike out the action, Master McCorry identified weaknesses in the plaintiff's case.
But he concluded: "The question is whether or not it is arguable, and with the reservations I have expressed I am compelled to conclude that at this stage it is arguable."