Brittain v Garner – 1989

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Brittain v Garner [1989] (The Times, 18 Feb)

QUANTIFICATION OF DAMAGES – LOSS OF A CHANCE

Facts

The claimant sought damages for the loss of his career, arguing that this should be quantified based not only on his present salary but on the ‘career ladder’ which he had been climbing and the promotions which he would have been likely to attain in the future had he had the opportunity to continue to progress.

Issue

The main issue was what approach the court should adopt to the quantification of damages in a case where the claimant is on a ‘career ladder’ and has lost the opportunity of promotion to each subsequent stage of his career.

Held

The approach set out by the court was to adopt a different multiplicand to reflect the increasing value of each stage of the career which the claimant would have had the opportunity to pursue. Conversely, a decreasing multiplier was adopted for each stage to reflect the decreasing likelihood that this stage would have been attained ‘but for’ the defendant’s negligence. In this way, the multiplier is divided into a number of periods during which the claimant might have been earning a different figure.

It should be noted that this is at odds with the usual approach of the court to the issue of quantifying damages for loss of a career, established in previous cases such as Housecroft v Burnett [1986] 1 All ER 332. In this case, the court used the somewhat simpler method of selecting single multiplicand based on the likely average salary of the claimant’s career.

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