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A jury has awarded the family of a deceased man sums significantly more than have been awarded previously in similar cases.

When someone dies as a result of the negligence of another, such as an employer, the deceased’s family has a claim against the negligent party. Part of the value of that claim is called “loss of society”. This is a sum to compensate for the distress, grief, sorrow and loss of the deceased’s company and guidance.

Typically, if a case was heard by a jury, compensation for loss of society would be far greater than it would be if heard by a judge. To try to bring more consistency between judge and jury awards, the courts decided that in jury cases a judge should give guidance to the jury, suggesting an award for loss of society within an appropriate range of figures. The numbers suggested would depend on factors such as awards in previous decisions, the age of the deceased and of his family members.

In last week’s case, Anderson & Others v Brig Brae Garage Ltd, the jury awarded figures at the very top of the range suggested by the judge. On one view, the judge provided a range of figures higher than might have been expected. That, coupled with a jury which clearly wanted to compensate the family as much as they could, resulted in awards far in excess of those made in other recent cases. The following table illustrates the position:

Awards

It may be that the Anderson decision is appealed but, as it stands, the practical consequence of the decision is that uncertainty in awards in fatal claims will continue for some time yet.

Colin Sandilands, Partner and Solicitor Advocate

Chambers UK 2106

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