Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED March 14, 2003

Where the claimant had not put before the court material to enable the judge to adopt the multiplier/multiplicand approach to calculating loss of earning capacity, the judge should have awarded a round sum.Defendant's appeal from the decision of Deputy District Judge Duncan on 17 October 2002 at Slough County Court to assess damages payable by the defendant ('D') to the claimant ('M') in the sum of ?46,175.15. M suffered serious fractures to his wrist in a collision that occurred while he was riding a motorcycle in the course of his employment and overtaking the first defendant's van. At the time of the accident M was 37 years of age. Both parties admitted 50 per cent liability. Following the accident, M was unable to return to the job he had held for seven weeks as a motorcycle courier, with projected gross annual earnings of £14,757 per annum. There was evidence before the judge that prior to obtaining employment as a motorcycle courier, M had worked as a sewing machine operator, administrative worker, and courier driver, at rates of between £12,000 and £13,500 per annum. After the accident, M had obtained employment as a cleaner at a rate of £9,100 per annum. The award of damages included the following sums: (i) for loss of future earnings, on the basis that had M been able to obtain better paid employment after the accident he would have done so, and on the basis that M was unlikely to stay in any one job for more than three years, the judge deducted £9,100 from M's projected net earnings of £11,430 and applied a multiplier of 18.03, giving a total of £41,871.43; (ii) the judge applied a multiplier of 20.21 to the annual figure of £250 for inability to do jobs at home, giving a total of £5,052.91; (iii) for loss of congenial employment, on the basis that M experienced a change in his social life as he could no longer ride his motorcycle, £2,000; and (iv) for increased costs of motoring and the cost of a car with automatic transmission, on the basis that a vehicle with automatic transmission was £495 more expensive than a manual car, a cost which M would incur until he was 70 years of age, a sum of £1,930.50. D argued as follows: (a) due to the degree of uncertainty regarding M's earning capacity, the judge should not have applied the multiplier/multiplicand approach; (b) the multiplier for inability to undertake jobs at home was inappropriate; (c) the judge had wrongly taken into account the change in M's social life for loss of congenial employment and should not have made an award under this head; and (d) the judge had failed to take into account the increased sale value of a car with automatic transmission.HELD: (1) The pre-accident figures for earning capacity should not have been accepted as the appropriate calculation base. M had simply not laid before the court material to enable the judge to adopt the approach he had, and it was not appropriate to use the figures, which were patently unreliable. The judge should have awarded a round sum. The court substituted the award made with a figure of £12,500. (2) The multiplier for inability to do jobs at home was inappropriate with regard to nature of the tasks that M could not perform. The appropriate multiplier was 15 years. The sum of £3,750 would be substituted for the judge's award. (3) It might have been appropriate to make an award under the head of loss of congenial employment if M had been employed for a significant period of time in his capacity as a motorcycle courier, but that was not the case. No award would be made, and the judge's award was set aside. (4) The award for the increased cost of a car with automatic transmission was not inappropriate.Appeal allowed.