Proving the Difference?

Case Background

The Court of Appeal today handed down Judgment in the case of Christine Reaney v University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust and Another allowing the Defendant’s appeal against the Order of Mr Justice Foskett. The Court of Appeal have remitted the case to Mr Justice Foskett for further determination in the light of their directions as to law.

Mrs Reaney is a T7 paraplegic caused by transverse myelitis whose condition was substantially aggravated by bed sores for which the Defendants admitted liability. Mr Justice Foskett in effect awarded the Claimant damages in respect of all the consequences of her paraplegia for which the Defendants were not responsible rejecting the Defendant’s case at Trial that they should only be responsible to the extent that the bed sores had created additional loss. Mr Justice Foskett justified this approach by reference to the requirement for full compensation and by comparing her but for situation in factual terms with her current reasonable needs.

The Court of Appeal considered that Mr Justice Foskett’s approach was wrong in law and that he should only have awarded damages in respect of the additional injury. The Claimant in fact conceded that during the course of argument that an approach based upon taking into account the Claimant’s financial circumstances in assessing causation of loss as opposed to quantification of loss was wrong in law. Accordingly the comparison has to be between the Claimant’s reasonable needs in each scenario without reference to whether the Claimant could afford to finance her reasonable needs in the but for situation. (Paragraph 19 of Judgment).

The Respondent’s case on appeal was essentially based on the authority of Sklair and the Claimant sought to argue that her new needs were qualitatively different to her old needs which would result in the old needs being disregarded in the assessment of damages. The Court of Appeal considered that Mr Justice Foskett had not made a finding to this effect nor that there was evidence to support the same. The Court of Appeal remitted the case for rehearing.

In terms of rehearing and future cases, consideration will have to be given as to the nature and extent of the difference between pre-existing needs and current needs which would justify the pre-existing needs being disregarded. On a reasonable understanding of the law, this situation would only arise where the pre-existing needs were collateral and bore no comparison with the existing needs. Insofar as there were greater needs in terms of hours of care or even quality of care , this could be subject to quantification by comparing the different care regimes. It is only in the Sklair situation where there is no real comparison between the two situations,resulting in the pre-existing care no longer being necessary, that the but for position can be disregarded.

Consideration will also have to be given as to the process by which the damages for additional injury are assessed and specifically to what extent the Court can have regard in this context to the Claimant’s inability to finance her pre-existing reasonable requirements.

Contributor Comments

Please see below for the Court of Appeal Judgment

Download Law Report