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Simmons v Castle, Court of Appeal, 26 July 2012

16 August 2012
The issues

General damages – Heil and Rankin v Rankin – Jackson reforms – uplift

The facts

Christopher Simmons had an accident. He was knocked off his motorcycle by a motor car drive by Derek Castle. Negligence was admitted. He was awarded £20,000.00 for general damages in the Derby County Court and £2,730.37 for special damages. No award was made for provisional damages, handicap on the labour market or the risk of future loss caused by the risk of medical deterioration. The claimant appealed. Permission was granted by the Court of Appeal following which the defendant made a Part 36 offer which the claimant accepted. The settlement amount remained as in the county court however the settlement provided for provisional damages in a specific circumstance.

The decision

The settlement was approved. The court considered the future approach to the measure of general damages in tort actions. It noted that on 1 April the reforms to civil costs contained in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 would come in to force. Those recommendation formed part of a coherent package of reforms one element of which was that general damages should rise by 10%.

In Wright v British Railways Board Lord Diplock had said that the Court of Appeal was best qualified to set guidelines for judges trying personal injury actions. In Heil v Rankin Lord Woolfe had emphasised the continuous responsibility of the court both to set damages and keep the tariffs up to date. Changes he noted could be justified by changes which took place in society and should by no means be confined to changes in the value of money.

It was clear from these observations that the court had not merely the power but a positive duty to monitor and where appropriate to alter the guideline rates for general damages in personal injury actions. This principle would not take effect immediately but only in some eight months time. However there were many cases proceedings towards a hearing which included claims for such damages and some of those claims might well not be due to proceed as far as a judgment until after 1 April 2013. It was appropriate therefore for the court to state the position now well ahead of the date when it would take effect. This had the advantage that parties had proper prospective warning.

The increase in general damages would extend to tort claims in general and not merely personal injury claims. The change arose from the forthcoming change in the civil costs regime. Although the court had not been addressed by counsel on the issue of increasing the level of general damages, it did not seem to be appropriate let alone necessary. Sir Rupert Jackson had consulted widely before publishing his interim report and before publishing his final report and the Minister of Justice had subsequently consulted on the main proposals. There would be no point in incurring expense and time in going over ground which had already been well trodden to debate a point which would only involve future judgments and was part of a coherent package, the rest of which had already been brought into law.

The increase should apply to all cases where judgment was given after 1 April 2013. Whilst this did not achieve perfect justice in every case the same could be said about any other answer to the question particularly in the light of the forthcoming changes to the costs regime. It had the merit of providing simplicity and clarity.

Therefore from 1 April 2013 the proper level of general damages for:

  1. Pain, suffering and loss of amenity in respect of personal injury.
  2. Nuisance.
  3. Defamation.
  4. All other torts which caused suffering, inconvenience or distress to individuals would be 10% higher than previously.

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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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