Rees v Darlington Memorial Hospital NHS Trust: HL 16 Oct 2003

The claimant was disabled, and sought sterilisation because she feared the additional difficulties she would face as a mother. The sterilisation failed. She sought damages.
Held: The House having considered the issue in MacFarlane only recently it was inappropriate to change the rules set down in that case. Nothing had been put forward to argue convincingly for a change. However there should be a standardised award, set at pounds 15.000. No damages should be awarded for the extra costs of parenthood arising from a mother’s own disability.
Lord Bingham described the award: ‘[the] award would not be, and would not be intended to be, compensatory. It would not be the product of calculation. But it would not be a nominal, let alone a derisory, award. It would afford some measure of recognition of the wrong done.’


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hutton, Lord Millett, Lord Scott of Foscote


[2004] 1 AC 309, [2003] UKHL 52, Times 21-Oct-2003, [2003] 3 FCR 289, [2004] Fam Law 22, [2004] Lloyds Rep Med 1, [2004] PIQR P14, [2004] 1 FLR 234, [2003] 4 All ER 987, [2003] 3 WLR 1091, (2004) 75 BMLR 69


House of Lords, Bailii


England and Wales


CitedMacFarlane and Another v Tayside Health Board HL 21-Oct-1999
Child born after vasectomy – Damages Limited
Despite a vasectomy, Mr MacFarlane fathered a child, and he and his wife sought damages for the cost of care and otherwise of the child. He appealed a rejection of his claim.
Held: The doctor undertakes a duty of care in regard to the . .
CitedParkinson v St James and Seacroft University Hospital NHS Trust CA 11-Apr-2001
A mother had undergone a negligent sterilisation, and in due course she gave birth to a disabled child.
Held: The right to bodily integrity is the first and most important of the interests protected by the law of tort. The cases saying that . .
CitedDutton v Bognor Regis Urban District Council CA 1972
The court considered the liability in negligence of a Council whose inspector had approved a building which later proved defective.
Held: The Council had control of the work and with such control came a responsibility to take care in . .
CitedEmeh v Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Area Health Authority CA 1985
Evidence was given to the effect that the chance of a baby being born with a congenital abnormality was between one in 200 and one in 400. . .
CitedThake v Maurice CA 1986
A vasectomy was performed. The husband was told that contraception precautions were not necessary but a child was born. The claim was brought in contract and in tort. The first instance court found no reason why public policy prevented the recovery . .
CitedBenarr v Kettering Health Authority 1988
. .
Appeal fromRees v Darlington Memorial Hospital NHS Trust CA 14-Feb-2002
A disabled mother sought damages for the birth of a child after a negligently performed sterilisation.
Held: The rule in McFarlane against recovery of damages for the birth of a healthy child, did not prevent an award which was intended to . .
CitedCattanach v Melchior 16-Jul-2003
Kirby J suggested: ‘Concern to protect the viability of the National Health Service at a time of multiple demands upon it might indeed help to explain the invocation in the House of Lords in McFarlane of the notion of ‘distributive justice’.’
CitedPractice Statement (Judicial Precedent) HL 1966
The House gave guidance how it would treat an invitation to depart from a previous decision of the House. Such a course was possible, but the direction was not an ‘open sesame’ for a differently constituted committee to prefer their views to those . .
CitedFitzleet Estates Ltd v Cherry HL 9-Nov-1977
Income tax – Schedule D, Cases III and VI – Payments of interest and ground rent incurred when property was being developed – Whether capitalised or paid out of profits or gains brought into charge to tax – Income Tax Act 1952 (15 and 16 Geo. 6 and . .
CitedRegina v Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd; Knuller etc v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 1972
The defendants were charged after pasting up in telephone booths advertisements for homosexual services. They published a magazine with similar advertisements. The House was asked to confirm the existence of an offence of outraging public decency. . .
CitedClark v TDG Limited (Trading As Novacold) CA 25-Mar-1999
The applicant had soft tissue injuries around the spine as a consequence of a back injury at work. He was absent from work for a long time as a result of his injuries, and he was eventually dismissed when his medical advisers could provide no clear . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedWright v British Railways Board HL 1983
An award of interest at a conventional rate includes an element in respect of the ‘real’ rate of return which an investor could expect to receive on a risk-free investment and an element to allow for inflation. Lord Diplock said: ‘that element of . .
CitedMohammed Ali Shaher and others v British Aerospace Flying College Limited IHCS 29-May-2003
The pursuers claimed for the death of their son, a trainee pilot aged 19, in a flying accident. The defenders reclaimed against the Lord Ordinary’s awards of andpound;35,000 to each parent. In the course of the reclaiming motion the pursuers invited . .
CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
CitedSouth Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd etc HL 24-Jun-1996
Limits of Damages for Negligent Valuations
Damages for negligent valuations are limited to the foreseeable consequences of advice, and do not include losses arising from a general fall in values. Valuation is seldom an exact science, and within a band of figures valuers may differ without . .

Cited by:

CitedFarraj and Another v King’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Another QBD 26-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after the birth of their child with a severe hereditary disease which they said the defendant hospital had failed to diagnose after testing for that disease. The hospital sought a contribution from the company CSL who . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
CitedMeadows v Khan QBD 23-Nov-2017
Claim for the additional costs of raising the claimant’s son, A, who suffered from both haemophilia and autism. It is admitted that, but for the defendant’s negligence, A would not have been born because his mother would have discovered during her . .
CitedRegina v London Borough of Barnet ex parte G; Regina v London Borough of Lambeth ex parte W; Regina v London Borough of Lambeth ex parte A HL 23-Oct-2003
The applicants sought to oblige the local authority, in compliance with its duties under the 1989 Act, to provide a home for children, and where necessary an accompanying adult.
Held: There were four hurdles for the applicants to cross. They . .
CitedWhittington Hospital NHS Trust v XX SC 1-Apr-2020
A negligent delay in the diagnosis of her cancer left the clamant dependent on paid for surrogacy arrangements. Three issues were raised; could damages to fund surrogacy arrangements using the claimant’s own eggs be recovered? Second, if so, could . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Professional Negligence

Updated: 11 October 2022; Ref: scu.186773