A High Court judge has allowed a defendant to adduce expert evidence on life expectancy to help decide the quantum in a seven-figure personal injury case.
In Mays v Drive Force (UK) Ltd, Deputy Master Hill QC, sitting in the High Court (Queen’s Bench) Division, rejected the claimant’s argument that she would be opening the way for experts being instructed in all cases, which would be contrary to the good administration of justice.
The expert in question has not examined the claimant personally but has a clinical background and an expertise in statistics.
The decision arose from a personal injury claim after an accident in June 2013 in which the claimant, a lorry driver, fell from the top of a deck and sustained a traumatic brain injury and orthopaedic injuries, with a catastrophic effect on his life. He has been unable to return to work since and needs the help of clinical case workers, support workers and therapists.
Liability has been admitted, and the parties had agreed to all issues at a costs and case management conference last month, barring the issue of a life expectancy expert. This could be a substantial intervention, with the defendant suggesting the claim is worth between £1m and £2m, and the claimant seeking damages of more than £2m. The cost of instructing the expert, Professor Bowen-Jones, has been cost budgeted at around £15,000 per party.
The defendant argued that if the claimant had more than one condition affecting his life expectancy, the court should have access to expert evidence on this issue.
Lawyers argued that adopting a statistical approach, and taking into account the claimant’s cigarette smoking, hypertension, obesity and colitis, the professor had assessed the claimant’s life expectancy to 73.5, which would represent a reduction of approximately 11 years.
The claimant’s lawyers said matters such as smoking and mild hypertension were common conditions, and analysis about his condition and life expectancy should be the reserve of consultant neurologists instructed by each party.
To allow Professor Bowen-Jones’ evidence, it was submitted, would be ‘to permit a hitherto uncommon practice of permitting life expectancy evidence to deal with non-accident factors’.
The judge said case law made clear that in an appropriate case the court should consider whether factors other than the index event have impacted on the claimant’s life expectancy.
‘This is a high value claim where the evidence may make a significant difference to quantum,’ she added. ‘Accordingly, the parties should be entitled to rely on this sort of evidence, and the addition of this expertise is proportionate. I am not persuaded by the “floodgates” arguments hinted at by the claimant.’
The judge said it would be a matter for the trial judge to determine whether statistical evidence was of assistance, and to consider any challenges to the credibility of the evidence.