The Court of Appeal handed down a judgment today which will lead to an increase in general damages in most civil cases from 1st April 2013.
The wider context for the judgment is the balanced package of measures recommended in the final report of the Review of Civil Litigation Costs produced by Lord Justice Jackson in January 2010, and due to be implemented in large part in April 2013.
Many of the Review’s recommendations have been enacted by Parliament in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
However, an integral part of the new overall costs regime is that general damages in most actions should rise by 10%, and that was not included in the 2012 Act,because, as Lord Diplock observed in a judgment in a personal injury appeal in 1983, the Court of Appeal is ‘generally speaking the tribunal best qualified to set guidelines for judges trying such actions’.
The Court of Appeal issues such guidelines to ensure consistency of approach in the assessment of damages, and case law provides for such guidance to set damages and to keep tariffs up to date. As Lord Diplock also said such ‘guidelines should be altered if circumstances relevant to the particular guideline change’
In today’s judgment, the Court of Appeal stated:
“This court has not merely the power, but a positive duty, to monitor and where appropriate to alter, the guideline rates for general damages.”
The judgment explained that early notice was being given of the 10% increase due to take effect in April 2013 to enable all parties engaged in or contemplating litigation to be aware of the impending change, and prepare accordingly (just as parties are preparing for the legislative changes in legal costs which will take effect in April 2013).
In terms of how the new guidelines will be applied, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the 10% increase should apply to all cases where judgment is given after 1st April 2013.
Notes for Editors
- A full copy of the judgment can be found on the Judicial website: https://www.judiciary.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/simmons-v-castle.pdf
- General damages will increase by 10% from 1st April 2013 for the following categories of case:
(i) pain, suffering and loss of amenity in respect of personal injury;
(iii) defamation; and
(iv) all other torts which cause suffering, inconvenience or distress to individuals.
- Further details on the Review of Civil Litigation Costs can be found on the judicial website:
https://www.judiciary.uk/publications-and-reports/review-of-civil-litigation-costs. This includes a lecture by Lord Justice Jackson on the issue of a 10% increase:
- The legislative aspects of the costs reforms may be found in the Legal Aid, Sentencing & punishment of Offenders Act 2012:
- The quotes from Lord Diplock are to be found in Wright v British Railways Board  2 AC 773 (HL).