A British couple receive damages after road traffic collision in Ethiopia whilst working in Africa

A British couple who were seriously injured in a road collision whilst working as professional freelancers in Ethiopia have been awarded damages.

Christine Tallon from the personal injury team at law firm Leigh Day acted for the couple who were travelling as passengers in a vehicle involved in a head on collision.

Both sustained serious injuries including spinal and head injuries. They were hospitalised in Addis Ababa before being repatriated to the UK by air ambulance.

Legal proceedings were issued in the High Court in London and both the USA and Ethiopian Defendants accepted the jurisdiction of the English court, notwithstanding the fact that both Defendants were foreign and the accident occurred abroad.

The Defendants accepted liability but raised several legal issues relating to the applicable law and, in particular, in relation to the heads of loss which were available in Ethiopian law.

The Defendant alleged that Ethiopian law did not provide for compensation to be awarded for General Damages or for Handicap on the labour market in particular.

The matter was listed for a trial of the preliminary issue of whether compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (‘General Damages’) and handicap on the labour market was recoverable from the Defendants.

Evidence was obtained from Ethiopian lawyers on behalf of both the Claimants and the Defendants. This evidence suggested that, whilst the award generally made by the Ethiopian court for ‘moral damages’ was extremely low, generally no more than in the region of £35 and only payable to a husband to compensate for the ‘loss of services’ of a wife, moral damages were clearly the equivalent of General Damages awarded by English court.

The fact that the award was referred to as an award for ‘moral damages’ rather than ’General Damages’ was irrelevant.

The Ethiopian evidence also supported an award for the equivalent of ‘Handicap on the Labour Market’.

Settlement upon the basis of English damages was eventually agreed at a round table settlement meeting.

Christine Tallon from the Personal Injury team at Leigh Day who acted for the couple, said: “This couple went through a horrific experience but have done incredibly well bearing in mind the injuries which they sustained.

"Thankfully both have been able to resume working in the field which they so loved, albeit at reduced capacity.

“This case was one which could so easily have become a test case in relation to the application of Recital 33 to the Rome II Convention which would have required the court to consider whether, on the grounds of public policy, a damages award should be higher than that which would ordinarily be awarded in Ethiopia.

"Clearly an award of £35 – and then only payable to a husband – is not an award which would be considered to be acceptable in the UK and it would have been interesting to see how the English Courts dealt with this."

In a statement the couple said: "We were initially put in touch with Leigh Day very early in our convalescence, by a family member concerned that we might never be able to work again following the crash. Recovery was hard work, but better than expected, which initially brought a degree of ‘thanking lucky stars’ optimism! But our personal and working lives are certainly not as they would have been, and we are also lucky that Christine and the personal injury team kept a steady view and worked to ensure that our very real losses have been recompensed. Their understanding and experience made a big difference to a potentially very distressing process."