Court of Appeal increases award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) by 25%; approach at first instance had been incorrect - Sadler v Filipiak and another 10.10.11

Comment

This judgment provides a helpful review of the principles to be applied when valuing damages for PSLA where there are multiple injuries. Each case will be considered on its own facts, with a view to determining a figure which reflects the combined effect of the injuries. In the majority of cases, defendants will successfully argue that a discount should be applied to the sum of the component parts.

In more general terms, the decision is also a reminder that appeals against damages awards are unlikely to succeed. The Court of Appeal has confirmed that it will only interfere with a damages award in exceptional cases and where there is a significant difference between their assessment of damages and that of the trial judge.

Background

Mrs Sadler appealed against an award of £32,000 for PSLA made by His Honour Judge Dixon in Basingstoke County Court. Following a road traffic accident in 2006, Mrs Sadler suffered multiple injuries. Liability was admitted. In respect of the PSLA award, the Judge indicated that he apportioned the total award of £32,000 as follows:

  • £12,000 - fracture to the left femur, including the scar
  • £4,000 - scar to the face
  • £5,000 - other scars
  • £8,000 - post-traumatic stress disorder  £1,000 - eye injury
  • £2,000 - other injuries

Mrs Sadler appealed on the basis that either the Judge had undervalued the component parts of the award or, having identified the sum of the component parts, he discounted it by too great a margin in an attempt to reflect the overall impact.

Decision

The Court of Appeal confirmed that it will only interfere with an award of damages if it is satisfied that the judge at first instance acted on some wrong principle of law, misapprehended the facts, or if the amount awarded was wholly erroneous.

Lord Justice Pitchford held that, were the Court of Appeal sitting as the court of first instance, in valuing the individual injuries it would have awarded a total of £47,500. It was then necessary to stand back to consider whether the award for PSLA should be greater than the sum of the individual parts, in order to reflect the combined effect of all the injuries, or discounted to remove an element of double counting. In a minority of cases no adjustment will be necessary, but in the majority of cases an adjustment, and occasionally a significant adjustment, will be needed. In this case there was no significant overlap between the psychological and physical damage suffered. There was however overlap between the awards for scarring and orthopaedic injuries. A significant adjustment was required to produce a figure of £40,000. The initial award of £32,000 was manifestly too low and the difference of 25% was sufficiently significant to warrant interference.