High Court Approves Settlement for Protected Party in the Case of Wagstaff v Murison

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2976 (KB)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of James William Wagstaff v William Murison ([2023] EWHC 2976 (KB)), the High Court was presented with a personal injury claim requiring judicial approval of a settlement for a protected party. This article analyses the key topics discussed in the judgment delivered by Dexter Dias KC, detailing the legal principles applied and linking them to the relevant portions of the case summary.

Key Facts

The claimant, James William Wagstaff, suffered serious injuries resulting from a collision with a vehicle driven by the defendant, William Murison. Wagstaff, 93 years old at the time of judgment, was represented by his litigation friend (his daughter, Mrs. Catherine Carr) due to his status as a protected party. Liability was admitted by Murison, and the incident resulted in a compromised claim which required the court’s approval to ensure it was in the best interests of Wagstaff.

The legal principles applied in this case predominantly stem from Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), particularly those pertaining to protected parties and the approval of settlements:

  1. CPR 21.2(1) - This rule identifies a “protected party” and is applicable given Wagstaff’s compromised cognitive abilities confirmed by a capacity report.

  2. CPR 21.10(1) - This mandates court approval for settlements involving a child or protected party, emphasizing the need to check the propriety of the settlement. The case references the Supreme Court judgment in Dunhill v Burgin ([2014] UKSC 18), which explicates the purpose of such hearings.

  3. CPR 41.7 and Practice Direction 41BD - These rules concern the appropriateness of award structures, particularly periodical payments, to meet the claimant’s needs fully across their lifespan.

  4. Judicial College Guidelines - These provide a benchmark for categorizing the severity of injuries and corresponding disabilities, crucial in assessing the quantum of damages.

  5. Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Act 1997 - The defendant’s liability under this act was considered in the structuring of the settlement.

  6. CPR 46.4(2)(b)(ii) and 46.4(3) - These rules permit the court’s approval for payment of post-settlement expenses, like an insurance premium, from the claimant’s damages.

The court also considered the expert reports and the opinion of the claimant’s legal representative alongside a report from an independent financial adviser to ensure the settlement was structured in Wagstaff’s best interest.

Outcomes

The court concluded that the settlement was in Mr. Wagstaff’s best interests and thus approved the settlement under CPR 21.10. Further ancillary orders relating to costs were made, including the approval of the After the Event insurance premium payment and an interim payment on account of costs by the Defence Insurer.

Conclusion

In Wagstaff v Murison, the court conscientiously applied relevant rules and guidelines within the CPR to a settlement involving a protected party. It underscores the court’s protective role over such parties and the careful scrutiny applied in ensuring settlements address the multifaceted needs of the claimant, including lifetime care and financial security. The judgment serves as a definitive guide on how the court balances the interests of justice with the particular circumstances of individuals who cannot represent their interests, ensuring their protection within the judicial process.

Related Summaries