Janet Baker, Head of South Yorkshire Clinical Negligence who has represented JR throughout his case obtained a settlement of £800,000 for accommodation in the appeal in JR v. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
The claim was made on behalf of 24-year-old JR, who sustained a catastrophic brain injury at birth. JR recovered an award that had a capitalised value of at least £24.3 million; at the time of writing, the largest court award of compensation to a disabled claimant.
The appeal followed the decision of William Davis J, in the High Court in April 2017, that claims for accommodation calculated by reference to the formula in Roberts v. Johnstone could not be made following the change in discount rate to -0.75% in March 2017. The reality of this was that JR was awarded nil for accommodation. JR has very high care needs, he is reliant on motorised wheel chairs to mobilise and requires a suitable adapted property to make a home.
In his Judgment William Davis J had assessed the appropriate purchase price for the Claimant’s accommodation at £900,000. However, as stated above he felt his hands were tied by the case law and despite his view on needs, he awarded nil and noted that the case did need to be heard in the Court of Appeal so that a decision on the law could be made.
Following the Appeals process an offer was made 3 days before the Appeal was due to be heard and JR accepted an offer of £800,000. This figure is the cost of accommodation as determined by the Trial Judge, minus a reasonable valuation for the accommodation that the Claimant would have purchased or rented uninjured.
In recommending that settlement to the Court of Appeal, Derek Sweeting QC of Chambers 7BR observed that: “The net effect [of this settlement] is that the Appellant has achieved his primary submission on the appeal, i.e. he has been compensated on the basis of the full purchase price of the house. The entire purpose of the appeal from JR’s perspective has been achieved. It would not have made sense to proceed given the offer.”
Much was made of this appeal as we have previously reported, as many had hoped that this would then set a precedent for claimants who currently feel ‘in limbo’ with the current way in which the law stands. However, in this instance and in every instance it has to be the Claimant and JR’s needs that are put first and we are so pleased that this settlement was achieved for JR. It was in his best interest.
We appreciate that the law may remain uncertain and before approving the settlement Lord Justice Jackson, observed that: “It is clear that sooner or later this Court is going to have to grapple with the Roberts v. Johnstone issues in the new world. There may be cases on the list in due course doing that. Nothing that we say today must be taken as pre-empting what this court will decide following argument…The Defendant has the luxury of choosing the case that will be argued… There can be no dispute that this settlement is favourable to JR.”
As part of the settlement, the Defendant agreed not to proceed with its appeal on the issue of lost years and to pay the costs of the appeal and cross appeal.
Janet instructed Derek Sweeting QC and Richard Baker of 7BR.