Court of Appeal Punishes Failure of Multiple Claims
An Exeter man has seen his award for damages swallowed by legal costs as a result of making too many claims that failed and refusing the Judge’s suggestion to settle the case. Stuart Clarke sued Devon County Council, claiming that his dyslexia had not been dealt with correctly by educational professionals. While the Court of Appeal agreed that one educational psychologist was negligent, it could not encourage the high legal costs incurred in suing five separate people.
Mr Clarke had attended both Alphington Primary School and St. Thomas High School, during which time he was seen by three different educational psychologists. However, despite their efforts, when the claimant left school at 15, he was still unable to read, write, or do simple sums. This severely limited his prospects for employment.
As a result, Mr Clarke made claims against the three educational psychologists who had written reports on him, as well as the head teachers of the two schools. At first instance, the Judge found that harm had only flowed from the second educational psychologist’s negligence. The psychologist should have recommended that Clarke be sent to Queen Elizabeth’s Community College in Crediton, which had special resources. Instead, Clarke had remained in the mainstream school.
A place was eventually offered to Mr Clarke at the Community College, but not until three years after the negligent psychologist had reported. By that time, the damage had already been done. The Judge held that specialist teaching would have made a measurable difference to Mr Clarke’s future prospects and awarded him £38,210, as well as all of his legal costs.
The Council appealed this decision and the Court of Appeal, while agreeing that the second psychologist had been negligent, took a different view on the costs. The Court decided that as the claimant had been unsuccessful in his claims against four other professionals, this should be reflected in the award for costs, which was accordingly reduced by 30 per cent. As the total legal costs for the case were £150,000, the claimant’s original award was severely reduced.
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