Charles Lucas & Marshall for appellant, Government Legal Department for respondent
The usual method of assessment of a dependency claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is the “multiplier method”, by which the assessed net annual loss of dependency (the multiplicand) is multiplied by a number of years (the multiplier). The House of Lords has previously held that the multiplier is to be calculated from the date of death, rather than from the date of trial (which may be many years later). The problem with this approach (as was noted by the Supreme Court in this case) is that it "means that the claimant is suffering a discount for early receipt of the money when in fact that money will not be received until after trial". As a result, it was said that this approach results in under-compensation in most cases.
The Supreme Court decided that this was a case where it should apply the 1966 Practice Statement, whereby the House of Lords declared that it could depart from its previous decisions. It therefore departed from the earlier decisions and concluded that "the correct date as at which to assess the multiplier when fixing damages for future loss in claims under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 should be the date of trial and not the date of death".