Thursday, 20 February 2014
A DEPENDENCY CLAIM IS A CHOSE IN ACTION
The facts: Philips admitted liability for exposing Mr Haxton to asbestos during the course of his employment as an electrician over many years. He died from mesothelioma within a year of diagnosis. Then, tragically, and before her Fatal Accident Act claim was settled, his wife also contracted the same fatal illness, from having hand washed her husband’s overalls. Her severely diminished life expectancy was known by the time her dependency claim was quantified. It was common ground that her dependency claim was properly reduced so as to take her reduced life expectancy into account. In her own personal injury claim, she sought to recover the loss in value of her dependency claim in the first claim, assessed at £200,000. The insurers disputed her right to recover in the second action what she was not entitled to in the first.
The decision: The Court of Appeal found in Mrs Haxton’s favour. An entitlement bestowed under a statutory right such as the Fatal Accident Act 1976 is a chose in action and as such any diminution in its value occasioned by the defendant’s negligence is actionable.
Comment: this decision could also be relevant in multi-casualty road traffic accident claims where more than one member of a family are injured and where a dependent dies shortly after the main breadwinner.
I provide a more detailed analysis of this case is published in the Journal of Personal Injury Law in issue 1 of 2014.