Common sense applied in a claim for deputy costs
ABC (by her litigation friend) v DFT [28.02.18]
A recent case decided that it would have been disproportionate and unfair to allow a personal injury claimant to recover significant costs to appoint a deputy to administer a relatively modest award for damages.
The claimant, a 17-year-old passenger in a car, was injured in a road traffic accident in April 2014. She suffered a lumbar spine fracture, abdominal injuries causing scarring and a head injury with serious psychiatric and psychological consequences. The psychological symptoms were superimposed upon her own pre-existing vulnerabilities.
Liability was not disputed and it was agreed that the claimant should recover from her all her injuries by the date of the trial. However, there was substantial disagreement as to the future care, if any, which the claimant would require.
In total, the claimant sought in excess of £11 million. As well as considerable damages for loss of earnings and care, this amount also covered the claimant’s significant claim for the costs of employing a deputy to oversee her damages as she lacked capacity. It was established in this particular case that a trust would have been impractical.
The claimant was awarded considerably less than she sought. Once the costs of rehabilitation were taken into account, the remaining fund would be in the region of £220,000 and yet the claimant sought £872,787 for deputy costs to manage it.
The Judge concluded that to award such a sum would be ‘grossly disproportionate’ and ‘not fair to a defendant.’ In addition, the Judge suggested than in all probability the money would be used to purchase a property, after which the remaining fund would require very little management once the first few years had passed. On that basis, he awarded £125,000 to cover the costs of administering the award. The total damages recovered were £561,981.50.
At a time of unprecedented costs being claimed for deputy expenses this is a welcome decision. In any case involving deputy costs it is important to consider how much there will be to manage and how the fund is likely to be spent, so as to determine the extent of the work required by the deputy and to obtain sensible expert evidence in respect of ‘reasonable’ deputy costs.