Skelton 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 assessment.
Precedent – Decisions of House of Lords – Applicability – High Court – Other Australian courts.
Windeyer J said: ‘The next rule that, as I see the matter, flows from the principle of compensation is that anything having a money value which the plaintiff has lost should be made good in money. This applies to that element in damages for personal injuries which is commonly called ‘loss of earnings ‘. The destruction or diminution of a man’s capacity to earn money can be made good in money. It can be measured by having regard to the money that he might have been able to earn had the capacity not been destroyed or diminished. . what is to be compensated for is the destruction or diminution of something having a monetary equivalent . . I cannot see that damages that flow from the destruction or diminution of his capacity (to earn money) are any the less when the period during which the capacity might have been exercised is curtailed because the tort cut short his expected span of life. We should not, I think, follow the English decisions in which in assessing the loss of earnings the ‘lost years’ are not taken into account.’

Kitto, Taylor, Menzies, Windeyer and Owen JJ
(1966) 115 CLR 94, [1966] HCA 14
Not FollowedOliver 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 . .

Cited by:
FollowedPickett 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Damages, Constitutional

Updated: 30 November 2021; Ref: scu.199760