Richard Earle acted on behalf of the administrators and personal representatives of the estate of Robert claiming damages under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
Robert died following a car accident in August 2002. The first defendant in the case was convicted of driving without due care and attention.
The first defendant admitted liability although a potential allegation was raised against Robert for failing to wear a seat belt.
Because of the damage caused to Robert's vehicle in the crash, it was not possible to ascertain whether or not he was wearing a seat belt. The severity of the damage to the car indicated that even if he was wearing a seat belt, it would not have saved Robert's life.
At the time of the accident Robert was 28 years of age. He was the father of two children aged just over three and five years. The natural mother was not dependent on Robert and therefore had no claim in her own right either in terms of dependency or against the estate.
Robert was unmarried and had left the children’s natural mother. At the time of his death he had been living with his fiancée, the second defendant, for a period of over two years. The two year period was crucial because that entitled his fiancée to a share of the dependency.
At the time of the accident, Robert was running a company specialising in designing and building glass partitions and his fiancée was similarly employed by the company as a book keeper.
As this was a new company with no material track record there were material issues as to the extent to which the company would have prospered and Robert's likely income as a result.
The arrangements regarding the children were unusual, in that before the accident they were living and cared for on a shared basis between John and his fiancée as well as their natural mother, living half the week with each.
After the accident this arrangement continued for sometime with John's fiancée still looking after them for about 50% of the time. This ceased though after the fiancée ceased her employment with John's company.
As she failed to provide instructions in respect of her own claim and there was a potential conflict of interest between the value of her dependency and the children’s dependency, it was necessary to join her as second defendant.
There was an added complication as the children were entitled to shares in the company, which was a continuing and ongoing benefit and source of income after their father’s death.
This led to issues over the valuation of the shares and could have impacted on the level of the children’s dependency given that they had an appreciating asset in the company in the form of the shares.
Following negotiations with the representatives of the first defendant, the terms of settlement were agreed. The children will receive the majority of the settlement, which was £250,000. This was approved in the High Court and the balance will be paid to the estate and to the second defendant.
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