Supreme Court Rule On Appropriate Date To Assess Multiplier For Future Loss In A Fatal Mesothelioma Case


The asbestos disease Partners at Simpson Millar welcome the decision of the Supreme Court in Knauer v Ministry of Justice v [2016] UKSC 9 on the emotive issue of the appropriate date for the assessment of the multiplier for future loss in claims arising from a loss of life following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, or asbestosis.

Asbestos Mesothelioma

The case was brought by Mr Knauer who tragically lost his wife to mesothelioma at the age of 46. She was exposed to asbestos during the course of her employment as an admin assistant at HM Prison, Guy’s Marsh.

All seven Justices sitting in the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, ruling that calculation for loss of dependency should be assessed from the date of trial rather than the date of death.

This date is crucial as it impacts on the financial calculation and thus the level of damages the family will ultimately receive.

The Supreme Court elected to follow the recommendations of the Law Commission made as long ago as 1999 on “Claims for Wrongful Death” to bring future loss calculations for dependency claims on to a level footing with personal injury claims where the injured person has been fortunate enough to survive. The Supreme Court recognized that the precedent cases of Cookson v Knowles [1979] AC 556 and Graham v Dodds [1983] 1 WLR 808 were decided in a different era before the adoption of actuarial tables as a basis to calculate future loss describing the outmoded basis for the calculations as "wholly unscientific." The rationale took account of the "material change in the relevant legal landscape" since the precedent cases had been decided.

What impact will this decision have on Fatal Claims?

It is estimated that this decision will make a substantial difference to the amount of compensation which can be claimed for future loss, in some cases, in excess of £50,000.

Whilst the vast majority of mesothelioma and asbestos disease cases are settled out of court, the case is still useful as financial schedules in fatal asbestos disease claims will now be calculated from a future trial date rather than date of death and in view of this Court ruling, the calculation can be agreed by the Defendants.

Following this case many financial schedules prepared in fatal mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis cases will now be revised to use the correct date.

Helen Grady comments:

"No amount of compensation is ever going to compensate for the loss of a loved one but it will stop dependents being unfairly undercompensated for the future loss aspect of dependency claims. It is distressing enough for the surviving dependents to have to go through the shock and grief following the loss of their loved ones and it is only right that they are never under compensated.

This is especially so since the level of damages recoverable for mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases are still very low compared to the enormity of losing a loved one through wrongful exposure to asbestos.

If anxiety on the issue of future income can be alleviated in some small part by fair compensation for future loss then it is worth the dependents going through the process of making a claim."

If you need legal advice on a mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis claim, Simpson Millar's team of expert asbestos disease solicitors are on hand to support and guide you each step of the way.

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