On appeal from: [2014] EWHC 2553 (QB)

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal concerning the appropriate date for the assessment of multipliers in claims for future loss under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

Mr Knauer made a claim for future loss of dependency under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 following his wife’s death after she contracted mesothelioma during the course of her employment as an Administrative Assistant at Her Majesty’s Prison, Guy’s Marsh. The Ministry of Justice admitted liability for her death in December 2013.

Although the parties agreed on the annual income figure and the services lost, a dispute arose as to whether the number of years by which that figure is to be multiplied should be calculated from the date of death or from the date of trial. The trial judge held that he was bound to follow the approach adopted by the House of Lords in the cases of Cookson v Knowles [1979] AC 556 and Graham v Dodds [1983] 1 WLR 808 and to calculate the multiplier from the date of death. However he made it clear that, absent that authority, he would have preferred to calculate the multiplier from the date of trial in line with the approach recommended by the Law Commission in their report Claims for Wrongful Death (1999, Law Com No 263). He therefore allowed Mr Knauer to appeal straight to the Supreme Court.

In giving the joint lead judgment, Lord Neuberger and Lady Hale explained that a ruling that damages should be assessed from the date of trial would involve departing from the established law as laid down by the House of Lords’ cases and therefore the court had to decide whether to apply the 1996 Practice Statement to depart from precedent. They stated that the Court had no hesitation in concluding that it should do so in the present case. The most important reason for coming to that view is that there has been a material change in the relevant legal landscape. Cookson and Dodds were decided in a different era, when the calculation of damages for personal injury and death was not as sophisticated and the use of actuarial evidence or tables was discouraged. The reasons given by Lord Bridge for using the date of death instead of the date of trial are no longer of concern because of the Ogden Tables which can be used for fatal accidents calculations and the Court’s ability to set timetables for the parties and insist they stick to them.


For judgment, please download: [2016] UKSC 9
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watching the hearing please visit: Supreme Court website