Ali v Caton & MIB [2014] EWCA 1313

Published: 29/10/2014 | News

Ali v Caton & MIB [2014] EWCA 1313

John Leighton-Williams QC and Andrew Wille were acting for the Claimant and Cross-Appellant in the case.

The Court of Appeal (Lord Justice McCombe giving the judgment) has unanimously upheld the judgment of Mr Justice Stuart-Smith who awarded the lump sum equivalent of c.£2.3m to a brain-damaged claimant (including Court of Protection and deputyship costs of £300,000) notwithstanding his finding that the claimant had managed unaided to pass the UK Citizenship Test (a fact-based multiple choice test with a 75% pass mark) (‘UKCT’).

The fact of his having managed to pass such a test had surprised the claimant’s family and dumfounded many of the medical experts in the case. Nevertheless there was a substantial body of witness and documentary evidence to support the finding that the claimant had substantive cognitive deficits that affected him on a daily basis and that he needed lifelong support.

Highlights of the judgment:

  • The judge was entitled, and indeed bound, to take into account all the features of the evidence in the context of his finding that the Claimant had somehow passed the UKCT. Focusing upon the UKCT pass almost to the exclusion of anything else is not the correct approach. All were agreed that he was not a person who could have kept up a mere pretence of incapacity, capable of fooling so many people, for so long. Notwithstanding the UKCT pass, there was detailed witness evidence from family, case manager and support workers as to how poorly the Claimant actually functioned on a day-to-day basis without support.
  • The question of mental capacity is, in the end, a matter for the court. Expert evidence is only one aspect of a case and must be considered in the light of all the evidence. The expert evidence, in particular that of the neuropsychologists in this case, was capable of providing a psychologist’s view of the question. It was an important facet in the equation, but the judge had to weigh that together with the evidence from other quarters as to how the Claimant presented and how in practice he functioned in day-to-day life: “The opinion formed in the consulting room does not dictate what happens on the street or in the home.”

It was not accurate, when considering capacity, to compare the Claimant’s position on receipt of a large sum of compensation with the hypothetical lottery winner. The difference is that the lottery winner has basic understanding to recognise when advice and assistance might be desirable. If he decides to behave irrationally in disposing of money that is one thing; it is another to regard with such equanimity the position of a brain-damaged claimant when in receipt of an award of damages, designed to provide for him throughout life.

Author: Andrew Wille Farrars (