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Beahan v Stoneham

21 May 2001
The issues

Delay On The Part Of The Claimant – Whether Interest Should Be Significantly Reduced As A Penalty

The facts

The Defendant appealed for an assessment of damages made by the Judge in the West London County Court. The Claimant had been injured in a road traffic accident in 1991 suffering a whiplash and other minor injuries. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder. The Judge awarded a total of £212,549.00 inclusive of interest. The Defendant appealed on the grounds (amongst others) that the Judge was wrong to award interest for the whole period up to Trial (interest amounting to some £50,000.00).

The decision

As a general point an appeal Court would only interfere with the Judge’s decision if it felt bound to conclude that the discretion of the Judge in coming to his decision had been exercised wrongly or if it fell outside the perimeters of reasonable “difference of opinion”. The Judge had heard the evidence and the correct approach was to review that decision but not to start again from scratch.

The Judge was wrong not to reduce interest. The Court had to exercise its discretion to reduce the period for which interest ran where a Claimant was guilty of delay. (See Spittle v Bunney 1998). Indeed since the introduction of the CPR a Court should be more ready to mark its disapproval of delay. In the circumstances of this case interest would run only for a period ending two years before the date of trial.

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