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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018

Woodrup v Nicol [1991] PIQR Q104



The claimant was a motor cyclist and was involved in a collision with the defendant motorist. He suffered serious injuries and was cared for by his father.

At first instance, he was awarded damages which included compensation for the cost of the care provided by his father, which was calculated based on his father 's loss of earnings. This amounted to significantly more than the commercial cost of comparable care services. The defendant appealed the award.


The issue before the House of Lords was whether a defendant should be liable for a claimant’s medical expenses where the latter had chosen to use private health care at a cost significantly above the commercial rate.


The Court of Appeal set out the general approach to determining the reasonableness of private and related medical expenses. In particular, regard should be had to section 2 (4) of the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948, which provides that where it is shown that the claimant has determined to use private medical care in the future as a matter of choice, it is not open to the defendant to argue that a claim to recover the expense of doing so should be disallowed simply because the same service would have been available from the NHS. On the other hand, if on the balance of probabilities the claimant has not determined to use private facilities, the defendant cannot be held liable to compensate him for an expense which he will not on fact incur. The critical issue is therefore whether the claimant can establish that in the balance of probabilities he will in fact use private medical care. 

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