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Spillman v Bradfield Riding Centre, High Court, 6 February 2007

20 February 2007
The issues

Interim payments – appropriate approach to be taken by the Court.

The facts

The Claimant, who was born in 1991, was kicked by a horse whilst at the Defendant’s riding school in 1995 and suffered a serious head injury. The Defendant had accepted liability for the accident to the extent of 70% and the Court had approved settlement of liability in 2000. Thereafter the Defendant made voluntary interim payments totalling £50,000.00. The parties agreed that the Trial was at least 2 years away and that it was not possible to determine Jade’s outcome beyond school in terms of employment or independent living at this stage. The claim was put forward in a sum approaching £1.4 million plus general damages. On a 70% basis the claim would be close to £1 million plus 70% of general damages. Any damages paid would be held in the Court of Protection. There were serious and stark issues between the experts on diagnosis, causation and prognosis. It was the Defendant’s case before the Master that a proper quantification of the claim would not be in excess of £260,000.00 which at 70% gave a total figure of £182,000.00. The Claimant sought a further interim payment of £400,000.00. The matter came before the Master who was very concerned that the Application was presented on the basis of that an interim payment was necessary or justified to provide special care and larger accommodation to Jade. The Master was unable to conclude on the evidence that the claim on the basis of new accommodation was likely to succeed. The Claimant appealed on the basis that the Court was not concerned with the purpose to which the interim was put but solely with regard to the amount.

The decision

The Court had power to make an interim in any case in which the Defendant had admitted liability and where the Court was satisfied that if the claim went to Trial that the Claimant would obtain Judgment for a substantial sum of money and, in the case of a personal injury claim, that the Defendant was insured.

The Court must not order an interim payment of more than a reasonable proportion of the likely amount of the final Judgment.

There is no rule, whether of law or thumb, as to what a reasonable proportion was. The Claimant relied on Dolman v Rowe in which the 75% figure found some favour.

It was not attractive for further Applications to be encouraged. The purpose of ordering only a reasonable proportion was to avoid prejudice to an overpaying Defendant. The time already elapsed and yet to elapse were significant factors. Further uncertainties were, to a considerable extent, excluded from the figure of £260,000.00. The fact that payments out would be controlled by the Court of Protection also provided a measure of protection to the Defendants. A reasonable proportion of the figure was 75%, which was sufficient to provide the Defendant with the protection they needed against the risk of Jade being over compensated. The interim payment would be therefore based on a figure of £136,500.00 (75% of £182,000.00 being itself 70% of £260,000.00). No reason existed for not exercising the Judge’s discretion to order a payment of the amount to which this analysis lead the Court and none had been suggested.

Appeal allowed.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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