In a judgment delivered last week, Lord Woolman awarded three grandchildren significant damages for the death of their grandfather, Russell Stuart.
In 2011, Mr Stuart died of injuries sustained in a car accident in Aberdeen. Although the personal injury claims of his widow and three adult children were settled, no agreement could be reached about claims made on behalf of his three grandchildren, two of whom were aged 5 and 3 at the time of the accident, and another not born until five months after the accident.
In the case (Stuart & Ors v Reid  CSOH 117A), the woman driving the car and her insurance company contended that the two older grandchildren receive £4,000 each and the youngest £2,000, while Mr Stuart's family sought £25,000 for each child. The court found a middle ground between the proposed amounts, although admittedly far more in favour of the grandchildren.
The eldest, N, received £18,000 on the basis that 'she knew her grandfather for the whole of her young life, was significantly affected by his death, and is more conscious of the deprivation of his company'. The middle grandchild, E, 'who was very young at the date of death and was not affected by it at the time to the same degree', was awarded £16,000. While the youngest, H, was awarded £14,000 on the basis that he was 'deprived of his grandfather’s society and guidance for 15 years'.
As a result of the case, some light has been shed on how the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 applies to grandchildren seeking compensation for the death of a grandparent.
Under the 2011 Act, the court can make an award of any sum it thinks just to the relatives of a deceased person for distress and anxiety, grief and sorrow or loss of the deceased’s society and guidance.
When deciding on the amount to be awarded to the grandchildren, Lord Woolman noted that the court must evaluate the whole circumstances, and took the following factors into account: '(i) the very close bonds of love and affection that existed between Mr Stuart and his granddaughters; (ii) his material involvement in their upbringing; (iii) my conclusion that he would have enjoyed a similar relationship with H; and (iv) the fact that he would otherwise have been expected to live for 15 years".
Due to the wide discretion the court has to make awards, there has been some uncertainty about how much compensation might be granted to relatives. However, although the amount of compensation due in each case depends on the particular facts, the approach taken by the court in this case can help guide personal injury claims made by relatives.
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