Seepersad v. Persad & Anor (Trinidad and Tobago)  UKPC 19 (01 April 2004)
Privy Council Appeal No. 86 of 2002
Peter Seepersad Appellant
(1) Theophilus Persad and
(2) Capital Insurance Limited Respondent
THE COURT OF APPEAL OF
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
JUDGMENT OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIAL
COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL,
Delivered the 1st April 2004
Present at the hearing:-
Lord Bingham of Cornhill
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
Baroness Hale of Richmond
[Delivered by Lord Carswell]
The Accident to the Appellant
The Course of the Proceedings
The Action in the High Court
"If he sits for six to eight hours he will have pain. He can manage four hours."
"As a result of the accident the plaintiff sustained injuries to his back, specifically to the L5, S1, the 5th, 11th and 12th thoracic vertebrae ie. T11 and T12. He did not undergo any surgical treatment and I accept that he is unable to operate his taxi as a full time taxi driver or as a mechanic. He has suffered restricted mobility and cannot lift heavy objects. He is unable to take part in the limited recreational activities he enjoyed before the accident but he can lift his infant child or take walks with her as well as drive his car. His evidence on the foregoing was in my view exaggerated."
"For the reasons set out above, I award damages as follows:
Special damages $45,491.00
(Injuries, pain and suffering) $150,000.00
Loss of future earnings $95,000.00
This is based upon the plaintiff's evidence that he was a part-time mechanic and full time taxi driver. He can no longer work as a mechanic. I rely upon the evidence of Dr K Maharaj who found there is 29% total disability."
He did not express any reasons for arriving at the figure which he allowed for future loss, and did not specify a multiplier or multiplicand, nor did he set out any facts or figures from which one might assess the basis on which he calculated the loss. He did not include any figure in his award for loss of earnings to the date of trial or for future costs of medical treatment or medication.
The Appeal to the Court of Appeal
"… the range of awards for this type of injury is between $40,000 and $120,000, ranging from that class of case with moderate lasting effect to the most severe consequences of a back injury."
It therefore followed that the award of $150,000 was in his opinion grossly excessive and should be set aside. Kangaloo JA then reviewed the appellant's injuries, referred briefly to the cost of medicines required by the appellant, and mentioned the possibility of spinal fusion surgery, the cost of which could range from $25,000 to $65,000. He concluded:
"In the circumstances I am of the view that an award of $75,000 for the non-pecuniary loss of the appellant would meet the justice of the case. Included in the figure is a small amount for the cost of future medical treatment based on the evidence led."
"Taking into account the appellant's propensity to exaggerate it is not unreasonable to take the sum of $100 per day as representing his earnings as a mechanic prior to the accident. This sum, like the $200 per day as a taxi driver, should be discounted by 25% to take account of taxes, holidays and sickness. The evidence from the appellant is that he did not work as late on Saturdays so that his net earnings as a taxi driver on Saturday could reasonably be taken to $100 and as a mechanic at $50. Applying these figures his net earnings would have amounted to $1,650 per week. This has to be discounted by 25% so that his weekly loss was $1,237.50. Using the rounded off figure of $1,240 and applying it to the period of 77 weeks, from 7th October 1998 to the 29th March 2000 (the date on which judgment was reserved) produces a figure of $95,287.50 for the appellant's loss of earnings up to the date of trial."
"At the date of the trial the appellant was 37 years old. No evidence was led about the age at which taxi drivers retire if they ever do, nor of the risks incidental to that type of occupation, which however cannot be insignificant in this country these days. It is conceded that the selection of a multiplier is a somewhat arbitrary process but I am of the view that a multiplier of 10 is not unreasonable in this case. Using this approach the appellant's loss of future earnings will be $230,000 instead of the $95,000 awarded by the learned trial judge."
Pain and Suffering and Loss of Amenity
Future Loss of Earnings
Medical Treatment and Medication
Special damage $140,778.50
Pain and suffering and loss
of amenities 75,000.00
Future loss of earnings 515,840.00
Future medical treatment
and medication 100,000.00
The Measure of Costs
Costs of Two Counsel
"When a Taxing Officer considers the assessment of costs he/she must have regard to all relevant circumstances which flow what I think a judge may consider in awarding costs as it relates to counsel, some of which are:
1. The complexity of the matter and difficulty or novelty of the questions of law involved.
This matter was not complex, particularly difficult, nor did novel questions arise.
2. The skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility required of, and time and labour expended by counsel.
Skill, knowledge and responsibility are necessary in every matter; but in the instant matter highly skilled and specialised knowledge of a senior counsel were not required.
Having considered all the relevant circumstances I award costs fit for one counsel to be taxed in default of agreement."
The Court of Appeal upheld his decision as a proper exercise of his discretion and made the same order, certifying the case as fit for one counsel.