Lord Woolman in the Court of Session awarded the granddaughters of a man who died in a car accident: £18,000 in respect of grandchild N, aged 5 when the accident happened, who knew her grandfather for the whole of her young life and was significantly affected by his death; £16,000 in respect of grandchild E, aged 3 at the date of death who was not affected to the same extent, and £14,000 to H, born 5 months post accident.
The awards were significantly higher than those proposed by the defenders in the case.
Grief and sorrow
A court can award relatives of a deceased person damages under three heads in terms of section 4(3)(b) of the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011. In this case, the second and third categories were relevant, namely for grief and sorrow caused by the death and for the loss of such non-patrimonial (i.e. non-material) benefit the grandchildren might have been expected to gain from the deceased’s society (i.e. company) and guidance. The eldest had a possible claim under the former head while all of the grandchildren had a claim under the latter.
Evidence was led about the close relationship Mr Stuart had with his grandchildren and the Court relied on the leading case of Hamilton v Ferguson Transport (Spean Bridge) Ltd, where we acted for the family of a deceased mother and secured record damages for a bereaved husband, along with other later decisions as guidance for determining the appropriate level of award.
Lord Woolman took four factors into account: the close bonds of love and affection between Mr Stuart and his granddaughters; his direct involvement in their upbringing; his belief H the youngest would have enjoyed a similar relationship and, finally, the assessment that Mr Stuart would have expected to live for another 15 years had it not been for the accident.
This decision continues the Scottish Court's move towards higher damages awards in claims by bereaved relatives. Practitioners should be noting the awards and weighing up the relevance to their ongoing cases.