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Damages: 'lost years'

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Can a case be reopened once a determination has been made?

Yes, held the Court of Appeal in Head v Culver Heating Co Ltd, where it is necessary to do so to avoid real injustice.

The case concerned Mr Head (deceased), the founder/owner/manager of EMSL, a heating services company. Mr Head died in late 2019 from mesothelioma sustained during his tenure years earlier at The Culver Heating Company. In Spring 2019 he gave evidence to the court relating to his 'lost years' claim for damages. It was accepted that if he were not terminally ill, he would have continued to work, even if later on a part-time basis only, at least until he was 70.

The original court held that the value of his lost years claim was nil. Permission to appeal was denied at the time of the first decision but unusually the Court of Appeal later accepted that it was necessary to reopen the case in order to avoid real injustice to the Claimant.

Relying on Picket v British Rail Engineering Ltd, the Court of Appeal held that the future loss of remuneration suffered by Mr Head arose from the Defendant's negligence and damages should be paid to his estate. Mr Head would have had future earnings because he was the driving force behind EMSL and he could not leave a theoretical future loss by testamentary disposition. The Respondent should meet the damages.

Following a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal the case was remitted for an assessment of the damages.

Thanks to Karen Jackson of didlaw for preparing this case summary.