Setting a precedent
This year will see the 25th anniversary of the case of Stevenson v Sweeney (1995 SLT 20), which was heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh by Lord Morton of Shuna in the autumn of 1995.
In this case, damages of £318,327 were awarded for the cost of future care for the 19-year-old pursuer [plaintiff], who had suffered serious head injuries in a car accident which resulted in him being unable to look after himself and requiring care for the remainder of his life. These damages were assessed by using a multiplier of 20, which was at the time the highest multiplier ever used by a court in the UK. This level of multiplier was accepted by the court on the basis of actuarial projections that I prepared for the solicitors acting for the pursuer, Digby Brown, and which they submitted as evidence.
I understood at the time that this was the first time actuarial evidence was accepted by a court anywhere in the UK. I would be interested to know if any other actuary knows of an earlier case where actuarial evidence was accepted.
There certainly were earlier cases where actuarial evidence was rejected by the judge. Mitchell v Glenrothes Development Corporation in 1987 was one, and in an earlier case in England the judge famously remarked that he would prefer to accept the evidence of an astrologer rather than an actuary.
I was told sometime later that it was the Sweeney case that established the precedent that actuarial evidence was acceptable to the UK courts, and as we approach the 25th anniversary of the hearing I would certainly like to know if this was indeed the case.
Peter A Wylie
18 April 2020