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Scottish Court of Session Decisions

You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> Scottish Court of Session Decisions >> Wolff & Ors v John Moulds (Kilmarnock) Ltd & Anor [2011] ScotCS CSOH_159 (29 September 2011)
Cite as: 2011 GWD 32-683, [2011] CSOH 159, [2011] ScotCS CSOH_159, 2012 SLT 231

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[2011] CSOH 159



in the cause







Act: Marshall, Solicitor Advocate; Shields, Solicitor Advocate; Thompsons, Solicitors.

Alt: McGregor; Biggart Baillie, solicitors

29 September 2011


[1] The pursuers in this action are the family of the late William Gardner Wolff. Mr Wolff was born on 23 November 1940. He died on 30 March 2007. The cause of death was mesothelioma. The first pursuer is his widow. She was aged 69 at the proof. She sues both in her capacity as the deceased's executrix and as an individual. The second, third, and fifth pursuers (Gillian, Elaine and Caroline) are adult daughters of the deceased, aged 32, 43 and 45 respectively at the proof. The fifth pursuer also sues (as sixth pursuer) qua guardian of her daughter Evie (aged 13 at the proof). Claims made by other family members have been settled.

[2] Mr McGregor appeared for the second defenders. There was no appearance for the first defenders. The second defenders accepted that the deceased's mesothelioma had been caused by negligent exposure of the deceased to asbestos dust during his employment with them. The pursuers sought decree only against the second defenders. At the proof I heard evidence and submissions relating to quantum of damages. Most of the evidence was uncontentious.

[3] The first pursuer and the deceased were married on 26 June 1962. They had started going out three years earlier, when the first pursuer was 16 and the deceased was 18. The deceased had been the first pursuer's only boyfriend. They had four children, three daughters and a son. They had three grandchildren. They were a devoted couple.

[4] The deceased was a joiner. He had been in employment for 50 years before he had retired in 2005. He had done a good deal of work to their current home, which had been purchased in about 2001. It was an older property (about 110 years old). Work done by him had included fitting a new kitchen, renewing the central heating, redecorating every room, helping with - and supervising - the rebuilding of a double garage, building a greenhouse, laying decking, and restructuring the garden.

[5] The deceased did much of the household maintenance himself. He shared the household and other chores with the first pursuer, including cooking, cleaning, shopping and gardening. He did the heavier tasks.

[6] The deceased had retired three months before his sixty-fifth birthday in order to retire at the same time as the first pursuer. They had planned to spend time together exploring Scotland, and to make a trip to Australia.

[7] After his retirement the deceased was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. He was prescribed Warfarin. He found himself becoming more breathless and less able to do the physical things he had done formerly. He reported breathlessness to his G.P. on 3 May 2006. On 5 July 2006 he was admitted to Crosshouse Hospital. Preliminary investigations suggested a possible diagnosis of mesothelioma. He had further investigations at Hairmyres Hospital. In mid-August 2006 the diagnosis of mesothelioma was confirmed. The deceased was advised that he had less than a year to live. Thereafter medical intervention was of a palliative nature. He was discharged home. He was substantially housebound from September 2006. He spent most of the last three months of his life in bed. He required increasing doses of analgesia to deal with pain. He had a persistent cough and breathlessness. He suffered very substantial weight loss, nausea, lack of appetite and fatigue. He was a hospice in-patient from 13 March 2007 until his death.


Life expectancy

[8] One of the areas of contention between the parties was the deceased's life expectancy. The only medical witness was Dr Peter Semple, a recently retired consultant physician who specialised in respiratory complaints. He held a consultant's post at Inverclyde Hospital for 30 years. He has very considerable experience of asbestos related diseases. He had examined the deceased's medical records after his death. He outlined the deceased's medical history. This included hypertension, obesity, atrial fibrillation, a history of smoking cigarettes for about three years when he was a young man, and diverticulosis. While his initial evidence was that, taken individually, none of these factors would have reduced the deceased's life expectancy below the average of 19 years, ultimately he accepted that it would be reasonable to reduce that estimate to 17 years to take account of their combined effect. I accept that. I proceed on the basis that but for his mesothelioma the deceased's life expectancy would have been a further 17 years.


[9] I record at this point that Mr McGregor submitted that interest on damages should run from 1 January 2010. The basis upon which he did so was that had the deceased's claim been intimated in January 2007, and the relatives' claims soon after his death, they could have been settled or come to proof by May 2008. It was not suggested that there had been inordinate delay on the part of the pursuers, or that the action had been unnecessary.

[10] Mr Marshall resisted Mr McGregor's suggested approach. There was no good basis for acceding to it. Those acting for the pursuers had sought to intimate a claim to the second defenders some three weeks before the deceased's death: but it had turned out that the address had no longer been an appropriate one. There had been intimation to the first defenders and their insurers at that time. Thereafter a pre-summons letter had been sent to the second defenders about a fortnight before the action was raised.

[11] I am not persuaded that I should follow the course suggested by the second defenders. The action was necessary. There was no inordinate delay in pursuing it. In my opinion the circumstances mentioned by Mr McGregor do not justify any modification of the ordinary approach to the award of interest.

The first pursuer's claim as Executrix


[12] The deceased was advised of the diagnosis - and of the prognosis - about seven months before his death. He suffered the rapid decline characteristic of mesothelioma. In Dr Semple's view his survival time from diagnosis was about average, but the history of increasing analgesia suggested his pain was worse than that experienced by the vast majority of mesothelioma sufferers, and that it was not well controlled despite the best efforts of those treating him. I accept that evidence.

[13] On behalf of the first pursuer Mr Marshall submitted that an appropriate award for solatium would be 65,000. Mr McGregor suggested an award of 60,000. Having regard to the exceptional pain suffered by the deceased I shall award 65,000. Interest shall run on the whole sum at 4 per cent per annum from 1 May 2006 until the deceased's death and at 8 per cent per annum thereafter.

Section 8 services

[14] Before her retirement the first pursuer had been a social worker at Crosshouse Hospital dealing with care of the elderly and terminally ill. She provided the vast majority of the deceased's care during his illness. His needs - and the services provided to him by the first pursuer - increased as the illness progressed. Particularly towards the end of the deceased's life, the first pursuer was assisted by other members of the family. I was asked to award a sum representing reasonable remuneration for the services rendered and reimbursement of expenses incurred. I was asked to make a global award. I was informed that it was unnecessary for me to provide any indication of the extent to which the relevant services were provided by individual relatives.

[15] Mr Marshall suggested that an appropriate award for this head of damages would be 19,250. That figure represented 300 per week for the nine weeks of July and August 2006, 400 per week for the following 17 weeks, and 750 per week for the final thirteen weeks of the deceased's life. Mr McGregor submitted that a broad approach had to be taken. There had been not been detailed evidence of the hours spent by the first pursuer and other relatives caring for the deceased, nor had there been any evidence of rates of remuneration paid to carers. Account required to be taken of the time that the first pursuer would have devoted to the deceased had he not contracted mesothelioma. Using the award in Renfrew v Lithgows 2009 Rep LR 19 as a guide he maintained that a fair award in this case would be 9,707.43.

[16] I agree that I require to make a broad assessment of this element of the claim. While I do not have detailed evidence of the number of hours each day spent by the first pursuer and other family members it is very clear to me that the first pursuer did her utmost throughout the deceased's illness to meet all his needs: and that as the illness progressed this became increasingly demanding. Other family members did what they could to assist her but she bore the brunt of it. In all the circumstances I consider that 13,500 is a suitable award. Interest should run on that sum at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from 1 July 2006 until the deceased's death and at 8 per cent per annum thereafter.

Section 9 services

[17] Between about July 2006 and his death the deceased was unable to do household maintenance and repairs or to carry out his share of household duties. Prior to his illness his contribution in both respects was significant. I award the sum of 1,500 in respect of the loss of those services prior to the deceased's death. Interest should run on that sum from 1 July 2006 at the rate of 4 per cent per annum until the date of his death and at 8 per cent per annum thereafter.

Funeral expenses

[18] The funeral account was 2,749. 1,000 was paid to account on 3 April 2007 and the balance was paid on 21 April 2007. Interest should run at 8 per cent per annum on 1,000 from 3 April 2007 to 21 April 2007 and on 2,749 from 21 April 2007 until decree.

The first pursuer's claim qua individual

Section 1(4)

[19] Mr Marshall submitted that an appropriate award would be 70,000. In support of that figure he referred me to a judicial award in a mesothelioma case, Murray v Greenock Dockyard 2004 SLT 1104 (where an award of 28,000 had been made to a widow (35,000 updated)): and to judicial awards in other cases such as Weir v Robertson Group (Construction) Ltd 2006 Rep LR 114 (35,000 to a widow, 41,000 when updated) and Bellingham v Todd 2011 Rep LR 68,[2011] CSOH 74, (50,000 to a widow). However, the major plank of his submission was that the recent jury awards in s.1(4) cases demonstrated that judicial awards in bereavement cases were too low. That applied across the board - irrespective of whether the claim was by a spouse, a parent, a child or a sibling. He recognised that jury awards had to be approached with great care, but he suggested that the pattern of recent awards provided a clear indication that the level of judicial awards was too low. The recent jury awards founded upon were:



Date of award


RPI Factor

Updated award to end March 2011 (RPI 232.5)

Strang v Le Brusq 2001 Rep L R 52

Parent of 21 yr old killed in RTA

7 February 2001




McIntosh v Findlay 2001 Rep L R 66

Posthumous child for loss of father

16 January 2001




Warnock v Clark Contracts 2005 Rep L R 90 (corrected in App. 3, Hajducki, Civil Jury Trials)

Widow of 34 yr old killed in workplace accident

Children aged 9, 6 and 3

18 November 2004


16,250 16,000





Gillies v Lynch 2006 Rep L R 138

Mother of 24 yr old killed in RTA

5 October 2004




Young v Advocate General, 2011 Rep LR 39

21 yr old Nimrod crew member

Mother (54)

Sister (29)

27 October 2010






Dicketts v Advocate General, 2011 Rep LR 40

27 yr old Nimrod crew member

Father (62)

Mother (66)

3 November 2007






Swarbrick v Advocate General, 2011 Rep LR 40

29 yr old Nimrod co-pilot

Mother (53)

19 January 2011




Thompson v Denis Thompson Builders Ltd 2011 Rep LR 40

26 yr old killed in workplace accident

Father (60)

2 February 2011




Hamilton v Ferguson Transport (Spean Bridge) Ltd, 2011Rep LR 40

50 yr old killed in RTA

Husband (67)

Daughter (17)

16 February 2011






Mr Marshall commended to me to the recent article by Andrew Hajducki, QC "A pattern of awards -juries and the bereaved" 2011 SLT (News) 37. Mr Marshall submitted that the recent jury awards showed that judicial awards ought to be increased further. The Lord Ordinary in Bellingham had taken some account of the level of recent jury awards but he had not gone far enough.

[20] In response Mr McGregor maintained that looking at the recent judicial awards an appropriate s.1(4) award for the first pursuer would be 35,000. That figure reflected the awards of 28,000 made to the widows in McLean and Murray updated to take account of inflation. No guidance was to be had from the jury awards founded upon by Mr Marshall. The three Nimrod cases were cases where the juries were likely to have been especially sympathetic to the families of young servicemen who had died on active service in Afghanistan. The awards had been close together in time and there had been a good deal of publicity surrounding the awards made in Young v Advocate General. In Thompson v Denis Thompson Builders Ltd and Hamilton v Ferguson Transport (Spean Bridge) Ltd there were motions for new trials on the ground of excess of damages. The only jury awards for spouses since McLean were those in Warnock and Hamilton. That was not a coherent body of jury awards. Nor did the jury awards which had been made in respect of other relatives clearly indicate that judicial awards for spouses should be higher than the benchmark which had been set in McLean. Mr McGregor accepted that the awards to the widows in Warnock and Weir, when updated, were higher than the figure he suggested, but noted that the deceased in each case had been aged 34. In Bellingham too the deceased had only been aged 40: but Mr McGregor submitted that the spouse award there appeared out of line with other judicial awards.

[21] Section 1(4) of the Damages (Scotland ) Act 1976 (as amended) provides for the award to members of a deceased's immediate family of:

" ...such sum of damages, if any, as the court thinks just by way of compensation for all or any of the following -

(a) distress and anxiety endured by the relative in contemplation of the suffering of the deceased before his death;

(b) grief and sorrow of the relative caused by the deceased's death;

(c) the loss of such non-patrimonial benefit as the relative might have been expected to derive from the deceased's society and guidance if the deceased had not died;

and the court in making an award under this subsection shall not be required to ascribe specifically any part of the award to any of the paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) above."

[22] In the case of the first pursuer (and each of the other pursuers) all three paragraphs are applicable. The first pursuer and the deceased were a loving couple who had been life-long companions. She was, and is, bereft at the loss of the deceased. She feels robbed of his love, companionship, help and guidance.

[23] In relation to each of the pursuers I require to make a judicial assessment of what is just compensation for the matters referred to in s.1(4). That involves the difficult exercise of taking account of both judicial awards and jury awards. I am not required to give primacy to jury awards. The weight to attach to them depends on the whole circumstances, including the information available relating to the awards, their similarity to the case under consideration, and the number of such awards (Girvan v Inverness Farmers Dairy1998 SC (HL) 1 per Lord Hope of Craighead at p. 11G-12A, 12H, 16H-17B; McLean v William Denny & Bros Ltd 2004 SC 656 in the Opinion of the Court at paragraphs [32] - [34]).

[24] I turn first to the judicial awards for widows.

[25] In McLean the widow was awarded 28,000 on 5 December 2003. Adjusted for inflation to July 2011 that is 35,812. In Murray the widow was awarded 28,000 on 30 April 2004. Adjusted for inflation to the same date that is 35,388. In Ryan v Fairfield Rowan Limited 2004 Rep LR 138 an award of 28,000 was made on 29 July 2004. Adjusted for inflation to July 2011 that is 35,236.

[26] By the time of Weir the Lord Ordinary had available to him the jury awards in Warnock and in Gillies. He treated Gillies as a very special case. He considered it would be dangerous to take too much from either Gillies or Warnock:

"They certainly do not form a pattern, either taken by themselves or when added to the jury awards mentioned in Shaher. The most that can be said is that the facts in Warnock bear a close similarity to those in the present case, having regard to the age of the parties and the fact of the apparently instantaneous death of the deceased." (paragraph [30]).

He opined that he would expect awards to elderly widows of victims of mesothelioma to be lower than those to young widows in sudden death cases: the s.1(4)(a) element in the former would be outweighed by the greater life expectancy of the deceased in the latter. He thought it arguable that Shaher was more relevant to such cases than the mesothelioma cases were, but he thought the award to the widow in Weir ought to be significantly higher than the awards to the parents in Shaher (paragraph [33]). (The awards in Shaher were 20,000 (25,860 in July 2011). The award made to the widow in Weir was 35,000 (41,382 in July 2011)).

[27] Bellingham was decided on 5 May 2011. It concerned the sudden death of a 40 year old man. The arguments in relation to the s.1(4) claims appear to have been similar to the arguments before me. On the widow's behalf it was contended that an appropriate s.1(4) award would be 100,000. The defenders suggested 40,000. The s.1(4) awards sought for each of the deceased's two young children and for an adult child aged 25 were 90,000: the corresponding figures suggested by the defenders were 20,000 for the young children and 15,000 for the adult child. The Lord Ordinary concluded that there was only one category of recent judicial awards which admitted of a possible pattern - that relating to loss of a child. Nonetheless recent jury awards across the board suggested that the awards he made should be somewhat higher than the levels which would be arrived at by updating judicial awards to take account of inflation. He awarded 50,000 to the widow, 25,000 to each of two young children, 15,000 to the deceased's adult son, 15,000 to each of the deceased's parents, and 10,000 to his brother.

[28] Had I been looking only to the judicial awards before Bellingham for guidance I would have concluded that the appropriate s.1(4) award for Mrs Wolff was 40,000. I am not persuaded that she should be treated less favourably than the widow in Weir. She and Mr Wolff were older than Mr and Mrs Weir, but Mr Wolff could have expected to live for a further 17 years. While that was less than Mr Weir's life expectancy, it was still a lengthy period: and in addition Mrs Wolff had the distress and anxiety associated with her husband's terminal illness.

[29] I turn now to the jury awards.

[30] Warnock is directly relevant. The date of the award was 18 November 2004 - post-dating McLean, Murray and Ryan. The deceased was 34. He left a wife and three young children aged 9, 6 and 3. The awards were 40,000 for the widow, 16,250 for the oldest child and 16,000 for the younger two. Adjusted for inflation to July 2011 they are 49,672, 20,179 and 19,869 respectively. The peculiar circumstances of Gillies are such that in my opinion it provides me with no guidance in the present case. In Thompson and Hamilton motions for new trials are outstanding - so it is not open to me take account of the awards made in those cases: see e.g. Girvan v Inverness Farmers Dairy, supra, per Lord Hope of Craighead at p. 17B. Mr McGregor indicated that the basis of the challenge in Thompson was that the award of 120,000 to the deceased's daughter was excessive and that the award of 80,000 to the deceased's husband was not attacked. That may be so but if a motion for a new trial is granted both awards will fall: Court of Session Act 1988, s.29(2); Campbell v West of Scotland Shipbreaking Co 1953 SC 173; Leadbetter v National Coal Board 1952 SC 19; Hajducki, Civil jury Trials (2nd ed.), p. 214. In my opinion the three Nimrod cases - Young, Dicketts, and Swarbrick - need to be treated with very great caution for two reasons. First, the awards there appear to me to be, at best, at the very top of the range of awards which might have been upheld had the verdicts been challenged. Second, I think it is not unreasonable to infer that the awards reflect each jury's understandable sympathy for the families of young serviceman killed on active service in Afghanistan.

[31] My duty is to carry out a proper judicial assessment with a view to determining compensation which is just to both parties. I have endeavoured to obtain such guidance as I can from both judicial and jury awards. Jury awards can be very much higher than any judge would award carrying out a proper judicial assessment (taking account of judicial and jury awards) without being so extravagant or palpably wrong that they will be held to be excessive (Girvan, per Lord Hope of Craighead at p. 16G-17B). In my view it would be wrong to give such awards significant weight in the judicial assessment. The awards in the Nimrod cases fall into that category. So, if upheld, would the awards in Thompson and Hamilton.

[32] There is not a clear pattern of jury awards for widows. Warnock provides some guidance: and, in general, jury awards for relatives since McLean do suggest that some increase in the levels of judicial awards may perhaps be required. The Lord Ordinary in Bellingham proceeded on that basis in fixing the awards he did. Taking account of judicial awards, jury awards, and the award in Bellingham it appears to me that a just s.1(4) award for the first pursuer is 50,000. I allocate half of that sum to the past with interest thereon at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from the date of the deceased's death until the date of decree.

Loss of support

[33] Parties were agreed that the multiplicand for loss of support should be 4,508.24. It was common ground that the multiplier for a life expectancy of 17 years should be 13.88 (derived from Table 28 of the Ogden Tables (6th ed.)). It follows that loss of support is 62,574.37. It is three and a half years since the deceased's death. I allocate 15,778.84 to past loss of support with interest thereon at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from the date of the deceased's death to the date of decree.

Loss of services

[34] As indicated above, the deceased was a tradesman who did much of the household maintenance. There was evidence of several outlays having been incurred by the first pursuer since his death for work he would have done. He also did his fair share of the household chores. Approaching the matter broadly I estimate the value of the lost services at 2,000 per annum. Past services are accordingly 7,000. Interest should run on that sum at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from the date of the deceased's death until the date of decree. It was accepted that there would have come a point as the deceased aged where his capacity to provide such services would have diminished. Had that not been so the balance of the multiplier to be applied to future loss of services would have been 10.38 (13.88 less 3.5). Taking account of that factor the appropriate multiplier for future loss of services is 7.5. Future loss of services is accordingly 15,000.

The second, third and fifth pursuers' claims

[35] The second pursuer is the youngest child of the first pursuer and the deceased. She was aged 32 at the proof. She had not left the family home. She has a Zoology degree but she works in what her mother described as a very routine clerical job. She is very quiet and undemonstrative, and has limited social skills. The first pursuer thought she may have a form of Asperger's Syndrome. The deceased had understood her difficulties and had had a good relationship with her. They were good companions. The second pursuer spoke to being upset at seeing her father becoming more and more unwell. She missed spending time with him.

[36] The third and fifth pursuers are two other adult children of the first pursuer and the deceased, aged 45 and 43 respectively. The third pursuer lives in Birmingham and the fifth pursuer lives in Bedfordshire. Normally each had had regular telephone contact with the deceased and had seen him two or three times a year. During his illness each had made considerable efforts to be with the deceased more and to assist the first pursuer.

[37] Mr Marshall argued that 50,000 would be an appropriate s.1(4) award for each of these pursuers. The awards had to reflect paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of s.1(4). He argued that recent jury awards - in particular the awards to parents for loss of a child - supported awards being at that level.

[38] Mr McGregor relied upon the judicial award of 10,000 made to an adult child in Murray. When that was updated to take account of inflation the figure arrived at was about 12,500. That sum would be an appropriate award for each adult child here.

[39] The pre-Bellingham judicial awards which I have to assist me are the 10,000 awarded in Murray (12,638 updated to July 2011); and the 17,000 awarded to children aged 10 and 12 in Weir (20,100 updated to July 2011). The most directly relevant jury award is Warnock. In that case young children (aged 9, 6 and 3) were awarded 16,250, 16,000 and 16,000 (about 20,000 when updated). In Bellingham the Lord Ordinary had regard to recent jury awards when arriving at the s.1(4) awards of 25,000 which he made for the deceased's young children and of 15,000 for an adult child aged 25 who shared common interests with his father.

[40] The s.1(4) awards to the adult children here ought to be less than awards made to young children. Looking at both judicial awards and jury awards I conclude that just s.1(4) awards for the third and fifth pursuers are 15,000. In the case of the second pursuer I consider an award of 18,000 is justified. She remains at home and she relied to a much greater extent than her sisters upon her father's companionship and guidance. In each case I allocate half of the award to the past with interest thereon at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from the deceased's death until decree.

The granddaughter's claim

[41] The fifth pursuer also sues as sixth pursuer in her capacity as guardian of her daughter Evie. In addition to seeing the deceased when her family visited her grandparents, and vice versa, Evie had on occasions stayed with the deceased and her grandmother for a week during the summer. The deceased and she had had a good grandfather/granddaughter relationship.

[42] Mr Marshall suggested that an appropriate s.1 (4) award for Evie would be 30,000. He acknowledged that there were no awards - jury or judicial - for grandchildren. Mr McGregor submitted that an appropriate award would be 5,000.

[43] As a generality the bond between grandchild and grandparent is far less strong than the bond between child and parent. The award for Evie should be a good deal less than the awards for the adult children. I also take account of the fact that while she had a good relationship with the deceased her contact with him was not frequent. In the whole circumstances 6,500 appears to me to be an appropriate award. I allocate half that sum to the past with interest thereon at 4 per cent per annum from the date of the deceased's death until decree.

Conclusion and Disposal

[44] I set out below my awards:

First Pursuer qua Executrix

Solatium 65,000

Interest 25,772.06

S.8 services 13,500

Interest 5,262.41

S. 9 services 1,500

Interest 584.71

Funeral expenses 2,749

Interest 980.24

Total 115,348.42

First pursuer as an individual

S.1(4) 50,000

Interest 4,498.63

Past loss of support 15,778.84

Interest 2,839.33

Future loss of support 46,795.53

Past loss of services 7,000

Interest 1,259.62

Future loss of services 15,000

Total 143,171.95

Second pursuer

S. 1(4) 18,000

Interest 1619.51

Total 19,619.51

Third pursuer

S. 1(4) 15,000

Interest 1,349.59

Total 16,349.59

Fifth pursuer

S.1(4) 15,000

Interest 1,349.59

Total 16,349.59

Sixth pursuer

S. 1(4) 6,500

Interest 584.82

Total 7,084.82

[45] I shall pronounce decree against the second defenders in favour of the first pursuer qua executrix for 115,348.42; in favour of the first pursuer as an individual for 143,171.95; in favour of the second pursuer for 19,619.51; in favour of the third pursuer for 16,349.59; in favour of the fifth pursuer for 16,349.59; and in favour of the sixth pursuer for 7,084.82. Interest shall run on each of those sums at the rate of eight per cent per annum from the date of decree until payment. I reserve meantime all questions of expenses.

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