Court Of Appeal Provides Guidance On Proportionality In The Assessment Of General Damages

Published date06 December 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Personal Injury
AuthorMr Padraic Brennan and Thomas McInerney


The recent judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on the 8th of September 2022 in Kevin Meehan v Shawcove Ltd and Ors1 provides helpful guidance on how the courts must approach an assessment of general damages in cases involving multiple injuries, as well as on how the courts must consider the proportionality of an assessment of general damages in light of the maximum award permitted.

This was an appeal against the manner in which the High Court had assessed the level of general damages and loss of opportunity in its judgment last year. Hanna J awarded the Plaintiff '375,000, comprising '125,000 for pain and suffering to date, '175,000 for pain and suffering into the future and '75,000 for loss of opportunity.

The Court of Appeal Decision

In his judgment, Noonan J, with Faherty and Binchy JJ agreeing, made it quite clear that he had the utmost respect for Mr Meehan's drive and perseverance in spearheading his impressive recovery from what were very serious injuries and in returning remarkably soon to his successful career. He had suffered fractures to his back and legs, various soft tissue and dental injuries, as well as PTSD and depression after a lift he was in collapsed. He had ongoing knee pain and would eventually require surgery - including the possibility of a total knee replacement before the age of 50.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal held that the sum of '125,000 for pain and suffering to date was appropriate. However, general damages into the future were adjusted downwards from '175,000 to '75,000, while damages for loss of opportunity were adjusted downwards from '75,000 to '50,000. Therefore, the total award for General Damages was adjusted downwards from '300,000 to a total of '200,000, which was deemed proportionate having regard to the maximum award permitted and to other awards in cases with injuries of comparable seriousness.

Noonan J stated that an award of '300,000 was normally reserved for cases involving serious and permanent disability of such severity as to compromise one's ability to carry out the normal activities of daily living to a significant degree. He added that damages of this level have also been awarded where no major physical disability was suffered, but where there had been serious or sustained sexual abuse, or where life expectancy was adversely affected. This Plaintiff had recovered to the extent of leading a normal and rewarding life, albeit with some limitations, so that an award of '300,000 for General...

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