High Court Decision Clarifies Handling of PPO Surpluses in Personal Injury Cases to Avoid Double Recovery

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2970 (KB)
Judgment on


The judgment in the case before the High Court of Justice, King’s Bench Division, represented by His Honour Judge Robinson, provides an intricate examination of the principles associated with the avoidance of double recovery in tort law concerning personal injury and compensation. The case pivots on how periodical payments order (PPO) surpluses for care and case management should be treated in connection to future years and the mechanism for addressing state-funded care. This article analyses these principles as they were applied in this specific case.

Key Facts

The Claimant suffered catastrophic injuries resulting in tetraplegia following a car accident, with the Defendant, her boyfriend at the time, found to be at least partially liable. A settlement concerning the form of the award – a lump sum plus a PPO – was reached, with the precise values agreed upon. However, the case presented a unique issue: the handling of potential double recovery in relation to state-funded care, should the Claimant apply for and receive such funding. This was tackled based on the agreement between the parties about the usage of PPO funds and any resulting surplus.

A pivotal legal principle at play here is the common law concept that prevents double recovery in compensation for personal injury cases. This principle maintains that a Claimant cannot be compensated more than once for the same head of loss. Case law such as Hodgson v Trapp, Sowden v Lodge, Crofton v NHSLA, and Peters v East Midlands Strategic Health Authority all reinforce this mandate. These cases also show the approaches taken by courts, including adjusting the lump sum for potential state funding or installing mechanisms to prevent application for such funding.

In Hodgson v Trapp, it was clearly established that double recovery—at the expense of both taxpayers and insurers—cannot be justified. Peters v East Midlands SHA went as far as requiring an undertaking to be offered to prevent claims for state-funded care following a settlement.

The case at hand centered around whether surplus from an annual PPO could be applied to future care needs or retained by the Claimant for their discretion. Judge Robinson highlighted practical considerations, such as administration burdens, and questioned the proposed “running account” approach by the Defendant’s counsel.


This judgment articulates that periodical payments in the context presented are to be exclusively related to care for the year in which they are paid. Surplus from these payments, therefore, is not obligated to be accumulated or used for future care. Thus, the Claimant is granted freedom in managing any unspent funds from a particular year’s PPO once that year concludes. This annualized accounting approach aligns with both the payment of damages and the assessment period for state funding.


The judgment exemplifies the court’s adaptability to practical realities and claimant autonomy while ensuring the jurisdictional intent to prevent double recovery remains intact. The adopted stance awards the Claimant with the flexibility to manage PPO surpluses annually without the need to set aside or ringfence funds for potential future care costs. The pragmatic interpretation provided by Judge Robinson potentially sets a precedent for how annual PPO surpluses are to be regarded in similar personal injury and compensation cases. It is indicative of a judicial inclination towards simplicity and precision in damage calculation, aligning with common law principles and fostering a claimant’s financial autonomy post-settlement.