Tracey Rae v James Freeman CSOH

The case of Tracey Rae highlights the risk defenders take when running a case before a jury.  The awards made by juries are notoriously higher and should serve to emphasise the need for defenders to make strong arguments against a pursuer’s motion to have the case heard by jury.

Route to Court

In Scotland pursuers have a right to have their case heard by a civil jury in both the Court of Session and in the newly established All-Scotland Personal Injury Sheriff Court in Edinburgh. Juries are regarded as being more sympathetic towards claimants and tend to award significantly higher sums than judges sitting alone.

Facts

In this case a civil jury at the Court of Session in Edinburgh awarded £263,534 in damages to a woman who suffered from food poisoning following a meal at a restaurant. She sued the catering company responsible after developing post-infection irritable bowel syndrome with ongoing symptoms.

Liability was admitted on behalf of the defenders with the hearing proceeding on the basis of quantum only.   Jurors therefore listened to evidence about the heads of claim and had to assess the level of damages.  After a week of evidence and submissions they awarded Mrs Rae the sum of £263,534 which included £175,000 for future loss of earnings and employability and £50,000 for pain and suffering.  The jury also decided she should receive more than £30,000 for past and future cost of food and dietary supplements.    

As this was a jury decision, we do not have the benefit of a written judgment which would have included the arguments put forward by the defenders insurer’s Counsel and what the appropriate level of award should have been in their view.

Comment

Of particular note in this case is that it is understood the pursuers offered to settle for a sum considerably less than that which was awarded.  For the defenders this was a difficult lesson to be learned about the continuing unpredictability of jury awards.