The Court of Appeal continues to reduce High Court Compensation Awards where it perceives that too much compensation was awarded in the lower Court. A woman who was awarded €121,000 in the High Court for injuries sustained when another driver backed into the side of her car has had her award of damages reduced to €69,000 in the Court of Appeal.
Delivering the judgment of the Court in the case of Anna Fogarty v Michael Cox  IECA 309 on the 29th November 2017, Ms Justice Irvine found that the amount awarded was excessive to the point that it must be considered a legal error, and said that the “injuries could hardly have been sustained in less traumatic circumstances”
Background to this Personal Injury Claim*
In 2016, the High Court judge made an award of damages of €121,386.11 (€85,000 for pain and suffering to date, €30,000 for future pain and suffering, and special damages of €6,386.11) in favour of the Plaintiff, Anna Fogarty as a result of injuries she sustained when Michael Cox reversed into the side of her car in Limerick Institute of Technology car park in November 2011. Mr Cox conceded liability in respect of the collision that occurred, but denied that the injuries claimed by Ms Fogarty were the result of that event.
Appealing the decision of the High Court, Mr Cox challenged the finding of causation against him, and also submitted that the damages awarded were double the amount that should have been awarded in the circumstances.
Appeal Decision on Damages
While Ms Justice Irvine did not believe that she could interfere with the findings of fact made by the trial judge insofar as causation is concerned, she
was not satisfied that the award in respect of general damages was just, proportionate or fair having regard to the injuries sustained, and also considering:
1. The injuries could hardly have been sustained in less traumatic circumstances; the impact was clearly not significant; and this accident was at the lowest end of the spectrum to be contrasted with the multitude of “extraordinarily frightening” road traffic accidents.
2. Ms Fogarty’s injuries required no hospitalisation or medical intervention of any type for several weeks, regardless of the fact that the trial judge accepted she was in considerable pain over that period.
3. At no stage following the accident was Ms Fogarty’s mobility compromised, and she remained mobile throughout the entire period of her recovery.
4. Whilst requiring a significant number of painful injections and physiotherapy sessions; these treatments had not disabled her in any real sense.
5. The evidence did not establish that Ms Fogarty was obliged to abandon any leisure pursuits, her studies, or other vocations.
6. Medical intervention was at the very lowest end of the surgical spectrum.
7. She would likely make a full recovery within 18 months of the trial, and there was no evidence that she would be curtailed in her enjoyment of life in the future.
Ms Justice Irvine accepted that Ms Fogarty had an unpleasant three years, involving significant pain and discomfort in her right elbow and a lesser degree of pain in her shoulder. However, the evidence did not establish that Ms. Fogarty did not live a relatively normal life during that period or that she was greatly curtailed in the activities she would otherwise have enjoyed.
Justice Irvine said that “at an absolute maximum an appropriate sum for pain and suffering to the date of trial would have been be an award of €45,000”, and that “a fair and just award in respect of pain and suffering into the future would be… €17,500”. The award made “was excessive to the point that it must be considered a legal error and as such sufficient to warrant intervention” by the Court of Appeal.
Reducing the overall award to a sum of €62,500 general damages, and having regard to the agreed special damages of €6,386.11, Justice Irvine held that the total award made should be reduced to €68,886.11.
In my BLOG written last year, titled “Court of Appeal guides the valuation of Personal Injuries Compensation”, I set out the basis upon which compensation for Personal Injuries is assessed by the Court of Appeal. The Court will look behind the Medical Reports and review the Claimant`s history by reference to the principles detailed in that Judgment, and in particular assess what treatment, consistent with the complaints of symptoms, the Claimant has actually obtained. These same principles were applied in this case.
For further information on the valuation of your Personal Injury you should contact:
Morgan McManus Solicitors
*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.