Changes to the Multiplier for Fatal Accident Claims

07 March 2016

Author: Laura Menary
Practice Area: Healthcare
Sector: Healthcare

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Knauer (Widower and Administrator of the Estate of Sally Ann Knauer) (Appellant) v Ministry of Justice (Respondent) [2016] UKSC 9

It has long been the case in fatal accident claims that the multiplier for dependency is assessed at the date of death. The recent decision in Knauer challenged this traditional method.

In brief, the Deceased contracted mesothelioma in the course of her employment. Her husband (‘the Appellant’) subsequently brought a claim for future loss pursuant to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The Parties were in agreement in relation to the annual figure for the value of services and income lost as a result of the Deceased’s death (the ‘multiplicand’). The issue then arose as to whether the number of years by which the figure was to be multiplied (‘the multiplier’) was to be calculated from the date of the Deceased’s death (2009) or the Trial date.

When calculating Damages for future loss, the traditional approach in Cookson v Knowles and Graham v Dodds is to take a multiplier from the date of death and deduct from it the time elapsed between the death and the Trial.

In Knauer, an enlarged panel of 7 Justices considered whether this remained the correct approach or whether it was appropriate to calculate the multiplier from the date of Trial (as recommended by the Law Commission in their report on Claims for Wrongful Death).

In arriving at their decision, the Justices agreed that, by calculating damages for loss of dependency from the date of death, this resulted in the Plaintiff suffering a discount for early receipt of money that would not, in fact, be received until after the Trial. This would mean that the Plaintiff would, in most cases, be under-compensated. Indeed, in Knauer, it had the effect of reducing the Appellant’s claim by £50,000.

The Justices agreed that it was appropriate to depart from the decisions of Cookson and Graham, commenting that these were decided in a different era, prior to the introduction of the Ogden Tables. The Justices unanimously concluded that the correct date for assessing the multiplier was from the date of Trial and not the date of death.

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