Hodgson v Trapp – 1989

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Hodgson v Trapp [1989] AC 807

QUANTIFICATION OF DAMAGES

Facts

The claimant suffered extensive injuries as a result of the defendant’s negligence, as a consequence of which he was unable to take care of himself. He was granted state benefits in the form of attendance and mobility allowances to assist with the cost of his care. However, he also sued the defendant in the tort of negligence. 

Issue

The issue was whether the state benefits received by the claimant which would not have been received but for his injury should be deducted from the award of damages.

Held

As a general rule, any state benefits received as the consequence of a tortious act should be deducted from any award of damages, in order to prevent the claimant from obtaining double recovery. The purpose of damages in negligence is ‘purely compensatory’ and it is therefore the net loss and expense caused by the injury which the defendant should be required to meet. The principal reason for this is less a matter of statutory construction and more of public policy, as the award of damages for personal injuries is generally met in the final analysis by the defendant’s insurer who will simply pass on the cost of an increased award to their future customers. Further, as a matter of principle, to allow double recovery would be a step towards a ‘no fault’ system of compensation, which would exacerbate the existing disparity between the position of those who establish liability in negligence for their injuries (and are thereby able to recover damages) and those who do not.

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