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Welsh Ambulance Services v Jennifer Williams [2008] EWCA Civ 81

CA (Civ Div) (Smith LJ, Thomas LJ, Lloyd LJ)

Damages – civil procedure – dependency claim – fatal accident – measure of damages

The deceased who was killed shortly before his fiftieth birthday had established a successful family business in which both he and his wife and their two eldest children were equal partners. The judge found that the business had grown as a result of the deceased’s energy and flair and described him as a “wealth creator”. Following the death the children took over the role of the deceased so successfully that the rate of growth of the business was the same if not better than before his death. The issue was whether the profits attributable to the increased work carried out by the children should be taken into account in the assessment of loss.

The Court of Appeal held that the wife and children had clearly lost the benefit of the value of the deceased labour and services as a ‘wealth creator. The fact that each of the dependants was as well off after the death as before was nothing to the point. A dependant could not by his or her own conduct after the death affect the value of the dependency at the time of the death. The judge had correctly assessed the value of the dependency on a global basis. The method adopted by the judge was to value the deceased’s services on the open market. The judge was right to choose that method of assessment. The appeal against the award of £1.8M was therefore dismissed.

Christopher Purchas QC appeared on behalf of the dependants.

William Stevenson QC appeared on behalf of the defendant.

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