AWARDS FOR PAIN AND SUFFERING: NO GREATER AMOUNT IF YOU ARE RICH: A BLAST FROM THE PAST (64 YEARS TO BE PRECISE)

Often this blog covers judgments on the day they were made.  Today, however, we are going back 64 years to 1957 looking at the case of Dunhill -v- Lumby reported on the 1st February 1957 in the Times.

 

WHY THIS CASE?

Yesterday I gave a webinar on damages for pain and suffering (still available on demand, by the way). As part of the research I looked at the history of awards and read the first edition of Munkman on Damages for Personal Injury and Death, published in 1956.  A cutting of the Dunhill decision fell from the pages. It had clearly been placed there in 1957 by the (then) owner of the book.

 

THE DECISION

Mr Justice Hallett was considering liability and damages in a road traffic accident. Having found that liability was established he considered n an argument in relation to damages, presumably raised by the plaintiff’s counsel that because the claimant was a person of “high position” she should receive a higher amount for damages.  The argument failed to impress

“… because Mrs Dunhill was a woman of high position she was not entitled to higher damages than a less fortunate person”.

“… it would be most horrible if it got about that a Court gave more for an injury because a person was well-to-do”.

This judgment reiterated the point that damages for pain and suffering do not vary because of the “status” of the injured person.

THE PRIVY COUNCIL DECISION LAST YEAR

The Privy Council decision in Attorney General of St Helena v AB & Ors (St Helena) [2020] UKPC 1, made essentially the same point.

“Pain and suffering is experienced equally by the wealthy and the poor, and the application of the same guidelines across the whole of England and Wales leaves no room for the notion that differential average earnings in a particular locality can be a determinant of a just level of compensation”

“It is obvious, for example, that in reality a particular sum of money, such as £100,000, may have a radically greater potential effect in improving the life of a poor person than it would in improving the life of a multi-millionaire. But the common law treats each of them equally when quantifying damages for PSLA.”

WHAT THE DUNHILL CASE SHOWS US

Before the days of online searches a personal injury practitioner would have to keep up to date with decisions on damages through “imperfect” reports.  The owner of the book (John Jenkins) would be keeping an eye out for reports as to damages.  It also shows how difficult the task was at that time. As the Privy Council noted, referring to Lord Donaldson’s introduction to the first edition of the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines.

“The distillation to which Lord Donaldson refers came from a very large number of decided cases (some indifferently reported) in which judges were required to quantify PSLA…”