In the personal injuries case of Maggie Yung V MIBI the High Court has increased the “cap” on general damages.
This case related to a twenty year old Chinese national who suffered serious injuries when travelling as a rear seat passenger in a car involved in a road traffic accident. The injuries included a compression fracture of her first lumbar vertebra and a collapse of the superior end plate kyphosis. She also developed very significant post traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately Miss Yang fell through the “gaps” in the Health System and only got proper medical treatment in the year 2003/2004. At that stage her surgeon advised her that she should undertake surgery to remove a hump in her back which caused her back to bend forward. This would reduce her pain but also carried with it a risk of paraplegia. While the risk being advised to her was small she had developed at that stage a very significant phobia and was not willing to undergo the operation.
Judge Quirke in the High Court found that she had devastating physical injuries and also had a significantly depressed mood disorder. The Plaintiff was not in a mental position to make a determination that she should have the operation.
In regard to the cap on general damages the Judge confirmed that the court was required to place the Plaintiff in so far as money can do so, in the position she would have occupied had she not suffered her injuries. The Judge awarded her general damages of €325,000.00 together with a very significant sum for loss of earnings and cost of future care making a total award of €1,826,380.12.
Dealing specifically with the issue of the cap on general damages the Judge said where an award is largely an award of general damages for the consequence of catastrophic injuries there will be no “cap” placed upon the general damages awarded. Each case will depend upon its own facts so that:-
- An award for general damages could, if the evidence so warranted, make provision for factors such as future loss of employment opportunity or future expenses which cannot be precisely calculated or proved at the time of the trial
- Life expectancy may be a factor to be taken into account and
- modest or no award for general damages may be made where general damages will have little or no compensatory consequences for the injured person