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Morris v Richards, Court of Appeal

14 March 2003
The issues

Future loss – special damages – remoteness – mitigation.

The facts

The Claimant had an accident in October 1996 with another vehicle. Liability was settled and the matter came before the District Judge for an assessment. The Claimant was employed as a Radiographer at the Ratcliffe Hospital in Oxford. 3 years after the accident she ceased to work as a Radiographer because of her injuries and was put on sick leave. In April 2000 she found herself another and better paid job with Toshiba. She resigned from the Ratcliffe. In November 2000 she resigned from Toshiba alleging discrimination. By October 2001, she had not found another job. The Judge found that had she tried as hard as she should have done, she would have found one by then at £17,500.00 per year and that she would have been able to reach a comparative earning level within 4 years. The Defendants appealed against the award of damages in respect of the time after the Claimant left Toshiba. They argued that these damages were too remote. The quantum was in the region of £30,000.00. The Defendant argued that the issue should have been seen as one of remoteness of loss rather than as mitigation, which was how the Judge addressed it. The difference was that whereas in mitigation it was for the Defendant to prove that the Claimant had failed to mitigate, under the heading of remoteness it was for the Claimant to prove that the damage she suffered had been caused by the tortfeasor and was not too remote.

The decision

1. The evidence as to why the Claimant had left Toshiba was uncertain and unsatisfactory. The Judge had been left to do the best he could on the evidence he did have, which included evidence from the Claimant. In the absence of a transcript, the Court would not interfere with the Judge’s finding that the Claimant was unsuited for the Toshiba job. The proper approach was to start on the basis that the Defendant was to blame for the injuries suffered by the Claimant and that the Claimant lost the job she liked and for which she was trained because of the Defendant’s wrongful act. The fact that she obtained another job and then lost it, should not automatically disqualify her from recovering damages from the tortfeasor in respect of the period after the loss of her new job. The crucial question was whether it was just that she should recover damages for that period. If she were at fault in losing her new job, then she would have difficulty in recovering. If she was not at fault, then in general, she ought to recover.

2. The onus was on the Defendant to show that the Claimant had unreasonably neglected to mitigate her loss. This was the approach, which the Judge adopted, and the Appeal would be dismissed.

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