Pickett v British Rail Engineering: HL 2 Nov 1978

Lost Earnings claim Continues after Death

The claimant, suffering from mesothelioma, had claimed against his employers and won, but his claim for loss of earnings consequent upon his anticipated premature death was not allowed. He began an appeal, but then died. His personal representatives appealed.
Held: The House assumed that, because the claimant had brought a successful claim for his personal injury, a claim by his dependants under the Fatal Accidents Act was precluded, although Lord Salmon emphasised that he expressed no concluded opinion about the correctness of that assumption. Damages could be recovered for loss of earnings in the claimant’s lost years. Only in this way could provision be made for the loss to be suffered by the dependants. Referring to Skelton: ‘The judgments, further, bring out an important ingredient, which I would accept, namely that the amount to be recovered in respect of the earnings in the ‘lost’ years should be that amount after deduction of an estimated sum to represent the victim’s probable living expenses during those years.
There is the additional merit of bringing awards under this head into line with what could be recovered under the Fatal Accidents Acts.’

Lord Wilberforce, Lord Salmon, and Lord Edmund-Davies
[1980] AC 136, [1978] UKHL 4
Fatal Accidents Act 1976 1(1)
England and Wales
OverruledOliver v Ashman CA 1961
The rule that loss of earnings, in the years lost to an injured plaintiff whose life expectancy had been shortened, were not recoverable, was still good law.
Pearce LJ summarised the authorities: ‘The Law Reform Miscellaneous Provisions Act . .
FollowedSkelton v Collins 7-Mar-1966
(High Court of Australia) Damages – Personal Injuries – Loss of earning capacity – Loss of expectation of life – Loss of amenities during reduced life span – Pain and suffering – Plaintiff rendered permanently unconscious by injuries – Basis of . .
CitedBenham v Gambling HL 1941
The injured person was a child of two and a half. He was unconscious from the moment of the accident until his death, which occurred later on the same day. He had acquired at the time of injury a cause of action for loss of expectation of life.
CitedAdmiralty Commissioners v Steamship Amerika (Owners), The Amerika PC 13-Aug-1917
The Admiralty sought to recover as an item of loss the pensions payable to the widows of sailors killed in an accident to a submarine: . .
CitedRose v Ford HL 1937
Damages might be recovered for a loss of expectation of life. A claim for loss of expectation of life survived under the Act of 1934, and was not a claim for damages based on the death of a person and so barred at common law.
Lord Wright . .
CitedBrunner v Greenslade ChD 1971
Megarry J discussed the ratio decidendi of and approving dicta in Lawrence.
‘The substance of the views of Simonds J was that where there is a head scheme, any sub-purchasers are bound inter se by the covenants of that head scheme even though . .
CitedRoach v Yates CA 1937
The plaintiff had been gravely injured. His wife and sister-in-law had nursed him and gave up their employment for that purpose.
Held: The plaintiff could recover their lost wages, albeit there was no suggestion of any agreement between the . .
CitedChaplin v Hicks CA 1911
A woman who was wrongly deprived of the chance of being one of the winners in a beauty competition was awarded damages for loss of a chance. The court did not attempt to decide on balance of probability the hypothetical past event of what would have . .
CitedRead v Great Eastern Railway Company QBD 25-Jun-1868
A railway passenger was injured; he sued and was awarded damages. He died later from injury on the accident.
Held: The widow could not bring an action for loss of dependency under section 1 of the 1846 Act. The cause of action was the . .
CitedPhillips v London and South Western Railway
CA 1879
In an action against the railway company for personal injury to a passenger, a physician, making pounds 5,000 a year, and where is an increasing practice, the jury in assessing the damages to their consideration, besides the pain and suffering of . .
CitedWilliams v Mersey Docks and Harbour Board CA 1905
The deceased suffered an injury in December 1902 which would have entitled him to institute proceedings against the harbour board within the special statutory period of six months pursuant to the 1893 Act. No such action was brought by the deceased, . .
CitedMurray v Shuter CA 1972
The plaintiff had been badly injured and was not expected to live long. When his claim for damages was almost ready for trial, his lawyers requested an adjournment. It was not possible for a live plaintiff to claim damages for his ‘lost years’. They . .
CitedHarris v Brights Asphalt Contractors Ltd QBD 1953
The plaintiff was not to be prevented from recovering the costs of private medical treatment.
It was argued and decided that (a) damages for the loss of earnings for the ‘lost years’ is nil, and (b) ‘the only relevance of earnings which would . .
CitedPope v D Murphy and Son Ltd QBD 1961
Both the injured plaintiff’s earning capacity and his expectation of life had been diminished and in assessing damages for the diminution of his earning capacity his Lordship had regard to the plaintiff’s pre-accident expectation of life.
CitedReid v Lanarkshire Traction Co SCS 1934
(Inner House) The shortening of life was accepted as a head of damage: ‘while the doctrine of an award in respect of the shortening of life may have originated in the theory of mental disquiet about the prospect or the possibility of death . . . . .
CitedWise v Kaye CA 1-Dec-1961
. .
CitedShephard v H West and Son Ltd HL 27-May-1963
The House looked at how personal injury damages shoud be set in cases of severe injury.
Lord Pearce said: ‘[i]f a plaintiff has lost a leg, the court approaches the matter on the basis that he has suffered a serious physical deprivation no . .
CitedJefford v Gee CA 4-Mar-1970
The courts of Scotland followed the civil law in the award of interest on damages. The court gave examples of the way in which they apply the ex mora rule when calculating the interest payable in a judgment. If money was wrongfully withheld, then . .
CitedMcCann v Sheppard CA 1973
The injured plaintiff succeeded in his action for damages for personal injury. The defendants appealed the quantum of damage but before the appeal was heard the plaintiff died. The court was now asked to reduce the award because of the death.
CitedCookson v Knowles CA 1977
Lord Denning MR said: ‘In Jefford v Gee . . we said that, in personal injury cases, when a lump sum is awarded for pain and suffering and loss of amenities, interest should run ‘ from the date of service of the ‘writ to the date of trial’. At that . .
CitedLivingstone v Rawyards Coal Co HL 13-Feb-1880
Damages or removal of coal under land
User damages were awarded for the unauthorised removal of coal from beneath the appellant’s land, even though the site was too small for the appellant to have mined the coal himself. The appellant was also awarded damages for the damage done to the . .
CitedDavies v Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Limited HL 1941
Damages under the Fatal Accidents Acts are calculated having regard to ‘a balance of gains and losses for the injury sustained by the death.
An appellate court should be slow to interfere with a judge’s assessment of damages. Lord Wright . .

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 . .
CitedGregg v Scott HL 27-Jan-2005
The patient saw his doctor and complained about a lump under his arm. The doctor failed to diagnose cancer. It was nine months before treatment was begun. The claimant sought damages for the reduction in his prospects of disease-free survival for . .
AppliedGammell v Wilson; Furness v Massey HL 1982
In each case, the deceased, died as a result of the defendants’ negligence. The parents claimed damages for themselves as dependants under the 1976 Act, and for the estate under the 1934 Act. The claims under the 1976 Act were held to have been . .
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 . .
CitedReader and others v Molesworths Bright Clegg Solicitors CA 2-Mar-2007
The claimants were children of the victim of a road traffic accident. The solicitors were conducting a claim on his behalf for damages, but when he died, they negligently discontinued the action.
Held: The claimants’ action as dependants of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Personal Injury

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.190060