Knauer (widower & administrator of the estate of Sally Ann Knauer, Deceased) v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 9

The appellant (K)’s wife had died from mesothelioma, after being exposed to asbestos during her employment by the respondent. Liability was admitted under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The claim included a claim for the income and services lost as a result of her death. The judge held that the multiplier was to be calculated from the date of death rather than the date of trial per Cookson v Knowles [1979] A.C. 556 and Graham v Dodds [1983] 1 W.L.R. 808. K appealed. The issues were: (1) whether Cookson and Graham reflected the principle of full compensation; and (2) if not, whether the court should depart from those judgments, applying the Practice Statement (HL: Judicial Precedent) [1966] 1 W.L.R. 1234.

HELD: (1) The normal approach was to calculate losses up to the date of trial and award a lump sum in respect of those. Future losses were calculated on a multiplier/multiplicand basis. The multiplier reflected the normal life expectancy of the victim, based on actuarial tables which included a discount to take account of the risk of an earlier death. There was also a discount to reflect accelerated receipt. Calculating damages for loss of dependency from the date of death, rather than from the date of trial, meant the claimant suffered a discount for early receipt when in fact the money would not be received until after trial. That resulted in under-compensation in most cases. (2) The court should be very cautious before invoking the Practice Statement. However, in the current legal climate, the application of Cookson and Graham was illogical and resulted in unfairness. That had encouraged courts to distinguish the judgments, meaning that certainty and consistency were being undermined. Above all, the change in the legal landscape (viz. the adoption of the Ogden tables), when taken with other factors, gave rise to an overwhelming case for changing the law. The date at which to assess the multiplier when fixing damages for future loss in claims under the FAA should be the date of trial, not the date of death.

March 15, 2016 В· Editorial Team В· Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases