Cookson v Knowles overturned: multiplier for future dependency to run from date of trial

Knauer (Widower and Administrator of the Estate of Sally Ann Knauer) v Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court, 24 February 2016

Judgment was handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court in Knauer v Ministry of Justice (2016) UKSC. In departing from the decision in Cookson v Knowles (1978) HL, the Supreme Court held that it is appropriate for the multiplier for future losses of a deceased’s dependent to run from the date of trial and not from the date of death. The Supreme Court acknowledged the importance of precedent set by earlier decisions, but confirmed its view that the litigation landscape has been transformed since the time of that decision, most notably by the advent of the Ogden Tables since 1984, and the seminal House of Lords judgment in Wells v Wells (1998) which confirmed the use of the Tables to be the mandatory starting point. This decision therefore represents a rare, but justified instance of the Supreme Court overturning a previous decision of its own, or its predecessor the House of Lords. The impact of this upon the insurance litigation industry will be higher awards of damages for claimants seeking compensation for loss of financial and services dependency in fatal claims.

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Philip D'Netto


I am a Partner specialising in catastrophic injury and large loss claims, based in the firm’s Manchester office and heading up the practice area there.