Can Defendants rely on life expectancy expert evidence following Dodds?

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Can Defendants rely on life expectancy expert evidence following Dodds?

Published 13 November 2019

The question of whether a Defendant can rely on expert evidence on life expectancy in a high value personal injury claim has been considered by the Courts in recent judgments.  On 8 November 2019, the High Court considered this question in Russell v Davies.

The Claimant pursued a claim for personal injuries following a road traffic accident on 6 May 2015 in which he suffered a severe head injury.  The Defendant applied for permission to adduce expert evidence on life expectancy from a physician, albeit the report was based on statistics, contending that a number of factors affected the Claimant’s life expectancy and that the expert evidence was reasonably required to resolve the proceedings.  The Claimant opposed the application, asserting that the expert evidence of the medical experts dealt with the questions of life expectancy and that a combination of their expert evidence and the Ogden Tables was sufficient to enable the Court to resolve the claim without further expert evidence.

The factors to be considered by the Court in deciding whether expert evidence in an additional discipline should be allowed, whether the expert evidence is reasonably required to resolve the proceedings,  as set out in British Airways plc v Spencer and others and the recent High Court decision in Dodds v Arif and Aviva Insurance were reviewed by Her Honour Judge Walden-Smith. 

In Dodds the Master refused the Defendant permission to rely on expert evidence on life expectancy and set out the proposition that permission to rely on expert evidence in this field should not be given where the injury in the claim has not impacted on life expectancy unless the Claimant is atypical, that where the injury has impacted on life expectancy the normal route is for the medical experts to give expert evidence on life expectancy, and that permission to rely on bespoke life expectancy expert evidence will not normally be given unless the medical experts cannot offer an opinion at all or state that they require specific input from a life expectancy expert.

Granting permission to the Defendant to rely on expert evidence on life expectancy in Russell, the judge concluded that it would be of considerable assistance to the Court in this matter.  The medical experts had caveated their opinions and the Claimant’s history of ADHD, smoking and illegal drug use in combination with the increase in his risk of developing epilepsy as a consequence of his injuries meant that the Claimant was atypical and fell outside the cohort on which the Ogden Tables are based.

This judgment should be taken into account alongside Dodds when considering whether expert evidence on life expectancy should be sought, and demonstrates that, in appropriate cases, permission will be granted by the Court.

DAC Beachcroft represent the Defendant in this matter.

Our Complex Injury team deal with a wide variety of cases on a daily basis. For more information or advice, please feel free to contact one of our legal specialists.

Authors

Lea Brocklebank

Lea Brocklebank

Winchester

+44(0)1962 705587

David Williams

David Williams

Leeds

+44 (0)113 251 4844

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