When a working parent (a provider) is killed as a result of negligence, the dependants have the right to claim loss of dependency under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. In the last 20 years in road traffic accident cases, the right to satisfy the judgment has been denied by the MIB where the driver was uninsured and the deceased was a passenger who knew as much.

However, in a recent case, the dependants were awarded damages where the provider passenger with knowledge was killed by an uninsured driver. The decision was made on the plain wording of the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999 which is different from the wording of the previous 1988 agreement.

Phillips -v- Rafiq, QBD His Honor Judge Seymour QC, 11 May 2006.

No damages in travel case for “mental distress and trauma”

Doctor Wiseman brought a return ticket with Virgin to Port Harcourt Nigeria. When returning, the Virgin Atlantic staff refused to allow him to board the plane. The evidence was that he was treated appallingly. He was asked for a bribe and when he refused to comply he was accused of carrying a fake passport, publicly ridiculed and accused of being a criminal. His humiliation was made worse by the fact that he was travelling with his “entourage”, a group of friends from his church, some of whom heard the accusations causing him to lose face.

Virgin admitted they were in breach of contract. Doctor Wiseman sought to recover £19,999 most of which comprised of a claim for general damages for the mental distress, anguish and the humiliation he had suffered. He was awarded £2,147.42 in respect of the expenses incurred as a result of his forced stay in Nigeria. His claim for “mental distress and trauma” was unsuccessful.

The judge held that it was well established that, save for a number of exceptional circumstances, damages for injury to reputation or hurt feelings were not recoverable in a claim for breach of contract. This was not a package holiday case (which would fall into the exceptional group of contracts that are entered into for the purpose of providing peace and enjoyment). It was a straightforward contract of carriage.

There was no convincing evidence that he had suffered a personal injury. If he had been able to establish such injuries, then damages could have been recovered as a matter of principle but only if he had been able to prove that they were in the reasonable contemplation of the parties when the contract was formed.

The Judge said: “It would not have been in the contemplation of the parties that the mere fact that not permitting the passenger to board the aircraft on his return flight would lead to a breakdown in health.”

This is only one of a very few reported decisions dealing with a straightforward contract of carriage rather than a claim under the Package Travel Regulations.

Wiseman -v- Virgin Airways (2006) EW8C 1566