Assessment of Damages In Multiple Injury Cases
The Court of Appeal has provided guidance on how to approach the assessment and proportionality of general damages, in matters where the Plaintiff has suffered multiple injuries.
In the recent decision of Meehan –v- Shawcove Limited and Ors  IECA 208, the Plaintiff sustained a multitude of injuries when an elevator fell three floors after a cable snapped. The Plaintiff endured a difficult recovery and did not fully return to work until two years post-accident. The trial judge awarded the Plaintiff a total of €375,000 for general damages (€125,000 for pain and suffering to date, €175,000 for future pain and suffering and €75,000 for loss of opportunity). On appeal, the Plaintiff’s general damages were significantly reduced to €250,000. The Court of Appeal judgment was delivered by Mr Justice Noonan in agreement with Mr Justice Faherty and Mr Justice Binchy.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE JUDGMENT ARE AS FOLLOWS:-
1. There is a risk of overcompensating when assessing damages for multiple injuries by reference to the Book of Quantum and Personal Injuries Guidelines (the Plaintiff’s Counsel’s submission was that if the Plaintiff’s injuries were assessed by reference to the Book of Quantum, the general damages award would be approximately €420,000 [Para 57]);
2. The proportionality test requires an application of the ‘sliding scale’, ranging from the least to the most serious injuries [Para 47]. Noonan J agreed with the position as set out by Mr Justice Irvine in Nolan v Wirenski  IECA 247 namely, “This usually means locating the seriousness of the case at an appropriate point somewhere on a scale which includes everything from the most minor to the most serious injuries”;
3. The assessment of general damages in matters involving multiple injuries requires the Court to take a holistic view of the Plaintiff, placing the injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff within the spectrum in a way that is proportionate, both to the maximum amount and awards made to other Plaintiffs [Para 64];
4. An award of €300,000 for general damages would normally be reserved for cases in which the Plaintiff is left with a serious, permanent disability that prevents her from carrying out normal activities of daily living to a significant degree, or where their life expectancy is adversely affected [Para 77].
The Court of Appeal upheld the award of €125,000 for pain and suffering to date, but reduced the award for future pain and suffering to €75,000 on the basis that the Plaintiff had made an excellent recovery, was not subject to limitations in carrying out the normal activities of daily life and resumed a normal, healthy and happy life. The Court of Appeal also reduced the award for loss of opportunity to €50,000, acknowledging that his career progress was stalled during his recovery post-accident and he may encounter a minimal disadvantage in the future for any changes of employment. However, on returning to work post-accident, his career had grown from strength to strength. In reaching his decision, Noonan J further compared and contrasted the Plaintiff’s injuries and damages in this claim to those in two recent decisions in which the plaintiffs suffered ‘serious injuries with lifelong consequences’ and which were going to ‘impinge to a significant degree on each plaintiff’s ability to live a normal life’.
Click here for the full judgment.
*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.
If you would like any further information or advice relating to anything covered in this article, please contact the Healthcare team at Carson McDowell LLP.