In BDA -v- Domenico Quirino  EWHC 2974 (QB) His Honour Judge Wood considered the issue of loss of earnings in the case of a victim of sexual abuse.
The claimant had suffered from systematic sexual abuse from the defendant, her karate instructor, for five years. She had a good educational history and aspired to study medicine. She left school during her A levels (as a result of the impact of the abuse) but later studied at college and obtained a degree in biomedical science with first-class honours. However during her PHD years she began to use the university counselling services. This led to the claimant reporting the matter to the police and a prosecution. The prosecution caused a deterioration in the claimant’s health and studies. However she re-started her PHD. She felt she had lost three years in higher education.
INTERRUPTION OF THE CLAIMANT’S STUDIES
The judge found that it was reasonable for the claimant to suspend her PHD research for three years because of the impact of the abuse and the significant effect of the criminal proceedings. She would be entering the labour market four years later than otherwise.
THE CLAIMANT’S LIKELY EARNINGS
The judge found that the claimant would most likely work in the bio-chemical or pharmaceutical industry, earning and income of £28,000 a year as a graduate.
THE DAMAGES AWARD
The judge awarded £30,000 damages for pain and suffering; £16,000 for mental distress and £9,000 aggravated damages.
THE APPROACH TO LOSS OF EARNINGS
PAST AND FUTURE LOSS OF EARNINGS
- Because the claimant was not already in settled employment and it was not certain what she would have done the judge took a “broad brush” approach to the assessment of loss of earnings.
- The loss of earnings based on four years income was a useful starting point, however it would represent overcompensation after allowances are made for the uncertainties.
- The appropriate figure, “essentially one of general damages for past/future loss of earnings” was £75,000.
DISABILITY IN THE LABOUR MARKET
The judge also made an award for disability in the labour market.
- The claimant was not specifically “disabled” and the use of the Ogden tables was difficult. A more traditional approach was called for.
- The risks to the claimant were not substantial. There was a significant risk of future problems but these were unlikely to lead to long periods of unemployment.
- It would represent overcompensation to award two and a half years loss of salary.
- The risk in the current case was best dealt with by an award of slightly over one year loss of earnings.
The judge made an award of £30,000.