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Parkin v Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust, Court of Appeal, 21 March 2002

25 March 2002
The issues

Medical negligence – life expectancy – agreed issues – resilement from agreement.

The facts

A claim for clinical negligence was brought against the NHS Trust which had left the First Claimant severely brain damaged. The Claimant’s expert in neurological disability took the view that the Claimant had a near normal life expectancy of 51 years (a multiplier of 26). The Trust agreed that report. The claim went to Trial on quantum only and was adjourned after the first day after evidence had been given as to whether the Claimant would be cared for at home or in specialist accommodation. Subsequently, an agreement was reached on two heads of damages. An Order was made that the remaining heads be tried at a later date. This Order specifically referred to agreement by the parties that the Claimant had a normal life expectancy and that the full lifetime multiplier on a 3% discount was 26.2. The claim was worth approximately 8 million. Subsequently a revised Schedule was submitted which totalled just under 13.5 million. The Trust subsequently obtained further expert evidence suggesting that the Claimant’s life expectancy was substantially lower than had been agreed and probably something in the region of 15 years. The Trust applied to adduce the evidence of its new experts, arguing that there had been fundamental change in the case on the grounds firstly that the Claimant’s case had increased substantially and secondly that the discount rate had reduced from 3 to 2Ω%. The Trust’s Application was dismissed. The Trust appealed.

The decision

1. The matters put forward by the Trust did not amount to a major change of circumstances.

2. Although further expert evidence had always been anticipated and must have been in the mind of the Judge, it would not have been anticipated or in his mind that those further expert assessments would extend to further evidence as to life expectancy. What was envisaged were deteriorations or otherwise in Claimant’s physical condition.

3. The Judge was an experienced PI Judge. He had not erred in exercising his discretion. Appeal dismissed.

Comments

Comment

Given the Lord Chancellor’s requests for views as to the removal of lump sum payments in cases of this kind and the replacement by periodical payments, this might be said to be a very timely decision and certainly from the Trust’s point of view, a strong argument in favour of the new proposals.

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