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James Arney KC was instructed by Niamh O’Brady from OH Parsons Solicitors, working alongside junior counsel Sinclair Cramsie, representing a man rendered profoundly blind in a work accident at the age of 46.
This case settled at JSM for £4.15m, net of any deduction for alleged contributory negligence. Whilst not formally sub-divided, the award is broadly commensurate with care and assistance of over £2m, general damages of ~£335k, loss of earnings of ~£450k, accommodation of ~£350k, travel/transport expenses of over £200k, case management of ~£350k and equipment of ~£200k, plus lesser heads of loss.
In the absence of clear authority after a contested trial where blindness is the principal injury, this case engaged interesting issues of general principle as to the legitimate objective of compensation in the case of such an injury. Ought the claimant to be put merely in the position of the “average blind person” who admirably manage life through the use of guide dogs, white canes and other devices to help them “get by” often by themselves, or should they have the benefit of a live-in carer/companion to guide them to a quality of life closer to that which they would have enjoyed as a sighted person?
The arguments presented on the Claimant’s behalf were that the care regime should offer “independence, freedom of choice, autonomy and mobility”. The Defendant’s obligation was “…to provide not simply what is necessary for the Claimant to survive, but what he reasonably requires”. A reasonable care package does not have to be the cheapest, especially where it confers significant advantages over the cheaper alternative. Reasonableness should be judged by the lifestyle that the Claimant would have had uninjured.
“Independence” ought not to be confused with doing things by himself – rather the presence of carers would give him the autonomy to attempt tasks by himself, but without the disadvantages that his blindness would otherwise dictate. A night-time carer would give him the security, safety and reassurance, both in dealing with any emergency that might arise, but also for general reassurance. Daytime carers offered access to the community, whether walking or being driven, restoring the spontaneity, confidence and convenience that he had previously enjoyed.
Whilst no formal concessions were made, the settlement figure was commensurate with the Claimant’s contentions. A reported judgment must therefore await another claim.