Dews v National Coal Board: HL 1988

The plaintiff miner sought damages for an injury suffered at work.
Held: An employee who had been injured at work could not recover unpaid pension contributions, which had no effect on his pension entitlement, as part of his loss of pay while absent from work as a result of his injury. A tortfeasor cannot obtain a reduction in damages otherwise payable to a claimant in respect of earnings on the basis that the injury has prevented the claimant from spending some of those earnings in the way that ordinarily he would have done. ‘Where a plaintiff is injured and as a result is paid no wages his immediate real loss is that part of his net earnings that were available for current expenditure. In respect of this part of his earnings the object of which is to provide income available for current expenditure the tortfeasor is, subject to sums necessarily spent to earn the income, entitled to no credit for expenditure saved as a result of the injury; the principle that it is no concern of the tortfeasor how the plaintiff chooses to spend his income applies.’ As to deducting travelling expenses from the lost wages, ‘Where ever a man lives he is likely to incur some travelling expenses to work which will be saved during his period of incapacity, and they are strictly expenses necessarily incurred for the purpose of earning his living. It would, however, be intolerable in every personal injury action to have an inquiry into travelling expenses to determine that part necessarily attributable to earning the wage and that part attributable to a chosen life-style. I know of no case in which travelling expenses to work have been deducted from a weekly wage, and although the point does not fall for decision, I do not encourage any insurer or employer to seek to do so. I can, however, envisage a case where travelling expenses loom as so large an element in the damage that further consideration of the question would be justified as, for example, in the case of a wealthy man who commuted daily by helicopter from the Channel Islands to London. I have only touched on the question of travelling expenses to show that in the field of damages for personal injury, principles must sometimes yield to common sense.’ Parry v. Cleaver established the circumstances in which a disability pension is to be disregarded in calculating damages: ‘It is to be observed that whereas the disability pension is not to be taken into account until the date of his normal retirement from the police it is thereafter to be taken into account in that it is subsumed in the general retirement pension.’


Lord Griffiths


[1988] AC 1


England and Wales


CitedParry v Cleaver HL 5-Feb-1969
PI Damages not Reduced for Own Pension
The plaintiff policeman was disabled by the negligence of the defendant and received a disablement pension. Part had been contributed by himself and part by his employer.
Held: The plaintiff’s appeal succeeded. Damages for personal injury were . .

Cited by:

CitedIndependent Assessor v O’Brien, Hickey, Hickey CA 29-Jul-2004
The claimants had been imprisoned for many years before their convictions were quashed. They claimed compensation under the Act. The assessor said that there should be deducted from the award the living expenses they would have incurred if they had . .
CitedLim Poh Choo v Camden and Islington Area Health Authority HL 21-Jun-1979
The plaintiff was catastrophically injured. Her life expectation was not affected, but she would never be able to work at her expected profession as a doctor, and was entitled to recover for loss of earnings. The defendant said that there was in . .
CitedEagle (By Her Litigation Friend) v Chambers CA 29-Jul-2004
The claimant had been severely injured, and a substantial damages award made. Cross appeals were heard as to the several elements awarded. The claimant sought as part of her award of damages for personal injuries the fees she would have to pay to . .
CitedLongden v British Coal Corporation HL 13-Mar-1997
The plaintiff was injured whilst at work in one of the defendant’s collieries. The House considered the deductibility from damages awarded for personal injury of a collateral benefit.
Held: The issue of deductibility where the claim is for . .
CitedLongden v British Coal Corporation CA 1995
The plaintiff sought damages after being injured at work. The defendant sought to set off against the damages to be awarded sums received by way of a collateral benefit.
Held: Roch LJ said: if the plaintiff were not permitted to recover the . .
CitedO’Brien and others v Independent Assessor HL 14-Mar-2007
The claimants had been wrongly imprisoned for a murder they did not commit. The assessor had deducted from their compensation a sum to represent the living costs they would have incurred if living freely. They also appealed differences from a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.199754