The Supreme Court will today hand down its eagerly-awaited ruling on the principle of full compensation as part of a negligence claim against solicitors.
In Edwards v Hugh James Ford Simey (a firm), justices will decide whether the claim for negligence should be remitted to the county court or dismissed on the basis it has no material value.
Crucially, the Supreme Court will determine to what extent a court should admit evidence obtained after the date of settlement of the original claim.
The case involves the late miner Arthur Watkins, whose daughter pursued a claim for damages against his former employer in respect of the condition known as vibration white finger.
Watkins instructed Simey Solicitors, as it was then known, to act and in 2003 he accepted an offer for general damages of £9,478. This acceptance terminated his ongoing services claim, for which he might have been entitled to additional compensation, and in 2010 Watkins issued the negligence claim for lost damages.
However, when Watkins was examined by a joint medical expert in 2013 for the purpose of the claim, his suffering was categorised at a significantly lower level: under the compensation scheme of the time, he would have been offered only £1,790 for general damages and no services claim would have been possible.
On first instance, Mr Recorder Miller said the advice given to Watkins, who died in 2014, was professionally negligent. But in light of the medical examination from 2013, his claim had no value given the damages already paid. The Court of Appeal set aside the case to Leeds County Court for a rehearing. Lord Justice Irwin said the principle of restitutio in integrum should apply, and the court should have decided what were the prospects of the claim, as it would have been progressed, assessed the value of the lost claim, and made an award accordingly.
The case was heard in the Supreme Court by Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Sales and Lord Thomas. Judgment is expected at 9.45am.