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Lesley Morgan v Jeremy Millett, Court of Appeal, 18 October 2001

7 August 2002
The issues

Road traffic – negligence – personal injury – damages – evidence.

The facts

The Claimant made a claim for damages for personal injuries suffered in a road traffic accident on 13th July 1993. It was agreed that the Claimant had suffered a whiplash type injury following a rear-end shunt caused by the Defendant’s failure to stop. The Defendant admitted negligence but denied causation and consequential damage.

The Claimant underwent an MRI Scan of her cervical spine and right shoulder, which showed that there was a “mild right-sided disc protrusion C6/7″ and “minor tendinopathy”.

The issue of causation was divided into two:-

(i) Whether the Claimant was malingering;

(ii) Whether the Claimant’s injuries could be attributed to the accident.

In relation to (i), the Claimant’s activities were recorded on video on several days in 1998 and 1999 with a view to demonstrating that she was a malingerer.

The decision

1. This case was unusual in that neither party called an orthopaedic specialist, although such specialist had been instructed.

2. There was found to be no doubt that the Claimant had suffered injury and damage of some sort and that she was experiencing real pain arising out of psychological disorder. Therefore, the cause of her complaint was justified and the issue of malingering had been effectively dissipated by the end of the Trial.

3. The video evidence of the Claimant undertaking a shopping trip and driving a car demonstrated that she was essentially free of any physical disability in her neck, shoulders and back. It was not accepted by the Judge that if the camera had been pointing at the Claimant’s face, it would have shown an expression of pain.

4. The Claimant’s credibility was held to be distinct from the malingering issue, as it was held that she had endeavoured to tell the truth.

5. The MRI Scan was significant in seeking to resolve the issues in the case. The part of the claim relating to a back injury was rejected on the basis that it was unsupported by evidence. There was some injury to the Claimant’s shoulder, but it added little to what flowed from the injury to the neck.

6. As a result of the accident, the Claimant suffered a reasonably substantial long term injury, primarily to her neck, but also to her shoulder and was not fit to return to work until July 1997, the fourth anniversary of her accident. Her earlier attempts to return to work were indicative of the Claimant’s determination to get back to a normal life as quickly as possible and were to her credit.

7. There was some enhancement of general damages to reflect the Claimant’s psychiatric injury until the fifth anniversary of the accident. Therefore, the overall figure awarded for pain and suffering was £16,500.00.

8. The Claimant was entitled to use special damages until the end of July 1997, to be calculated on agreed figures.

9. A further £7,500.00 was awarded to the Claimant for her diminution of her opportunity in the market place, but future loss of earnings and future loss of pension did not arise.

10. Accordingly, the Claimant was awarded a total of £24,000.00 general damages as a result of the whiplash type injury with psychiatric consequences, which prevented her from returning to work for 4 years and deprived her of her opportunity in the labour market.

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