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Fletcher v Autocar and Transporters [1968] 2 QB 322

QUANTIFICATION OF DAMAGES

Facts

The claimant, a chartered quantity surveyor, was driving along when a lorry driven by the defendants' employee negligently ran into his car. The claimant suffered severe injuries, including extensive brain damage, as a result of which he was entirely dependent on his wife to care for him. Three years after the accident, his wife was no longer able to assist him and he spent the remainder of his life (which was not expected to be shortened by his injuries) in a mental hospital as a paying patient.

At first instance, the judge assessed damages under four heads (special damages, loss of future earnings, additional expenses, and damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity). He then calculated the total sum to be awarded by adding together the figure for each head, without further consideration of whether this final amount was just and reasonable. The defendant appealed the quantum of damages.

Issue

The key question was whether the total figure should be revised if the assessment of individual heads of damage amounted to an ‘exceptionally high’ or ‘daunting’ figure when taken together.

Held

The Court of Appeal held that assessment of damages as individual heads of compensation was merely an aid to determine a sum which was fair and reasonable. It was also necessary for the judge to ensure that the final sum awarded was fair and reasonable, particularly by considering the inter-relationship of the heads of assessment in a case such as this where the plaintiff’s life has been transformed and there is a considerable danger of overlapping between the heads of damage. The appeal was therefore allowed.


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