28 January 2021

Tom Vonberg successfully acts in fatal accidents claim.

Earlier this week, the High Court approved a significant fatal accident damages sum in respect of four protected parties. The deceased’s widow was, during the course of the litigation, deemed to lack capacity such that the Court of Protection appointed professional deputies. Tom Vonberg acted for the Claimants throughout the claim. He was instructed by Matthew Nash, a serious and complex injury lawyer at Trade Union Legal LLP t/a Unionline, Sheffield. The Claimants’ representatives requested that the approval was fast tracked following a joint settlement meeting so that the dependent family could complete on the purchase of a new home prior to the end of the current stamp duty holiday. The claim arose from a fatality at work and was widely reported by the national press at the time. The Master made an order for anonymity as is the default position following JX MX v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust and Ors [2015] EWCA Civ 96. The particularly tragic feature of the case was that the deceased left behind a family of six dependents who were almost entirely reliant on him for income and services. In addition to the widow, three of the dependents were minors and, of the two adult children, both were living at home - one of whom was, for medical reasons, unlikely to ever live independently. At the recent Joint Settlement Meeting in London, the Defendant contended that the conventional dependency ratios should be displaced in view of the nature and amount of state benefits received and in light of the authority in Cox v Hockenhull [2001] W.L.R. 750 - in which the Court of Appeal considered the extent to which it is relevant that income derives from the state for the purpose of valuing income dependency. There was also disagreement between the parties over the likely admissibility of desktop statistician life expectancy evidence on the deceased which had been disclosed by the Defendant the day before the settlement meeting – which was objected to by the Claimants’ team in view of Master Davison’s useful guidance and summary of existing authorities as to when such evidence may be appropriate in Dodds v Arif & Anor [2019] EWHC. In the event, settlement was reached to reflect a very high degree of dependency by the deceased’s family for the remainder of his natural life as well as what were projected to be substantial costs associated with the appointment of professional deputies and the involvement of the Court of Protection. An application will now be made to the Court of Protection to release a portion of the funds to swiftly complete the intended house purchase so that the family can leave their rented accommodation in London and start a new life on the south coast. Jemma Morland and Emma Gauden at EMG Solicitors, Durham, were appointed as professional deputies to the deceased’s widow. Tom is currently instructed in a number of fatal accident claims some of which involve difficult quantum issues or in which liability remains contested. For details of these and past instructions please see his profile page here.