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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

Anthony Gold Solicitors , 01 DEC 2015

BDA v Domenico [2015] EWHC 2974 (QB)

BDA v Domenico [2015] EWHC 2974 (QB)

High Court, Queen’s Bench Division

Judge Graham Wood QC

23 October 2015


The Claimant received £172,553 in damages for the psychiatric injuries suffered as a result of the sexual abuse she was victim to at the hands of the defendant, her former karate instructor between the ages of 14 and 18.


The trial judge was to determine the issues of causation and quantum following the entry of default judgment. It was held that the injuries were considered to have been caused by the sexual abuse.  Relevant to the assessment of damages it was found that, on a balance of probabilities, the claimant’s A level study was affected by her ongoing abuse at that time and that both the depression that she suffered, and will continue to suffer from, and the psychosexual problems that she faces are attributable to the abuse. The judge also found that it was reasonable for the claimant to postpone her PhD studies for the duration of the criminal trial so that she will finish this in 2016, rather than 2013, which puts her 3 years behind her contemporaries and that she would have been entitled to at least £28,000 per annum as a graduate in the pharmaceutical industry had she been working by 2013.
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For pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the claimant was in the ‘moderately severe psychiatric injury’ category. In order to determine where in the category she was, it was relevant to take into account identifiable features of her psychiatric injury rather than to other considerations better suited to aggravated damages. The trial judge considered the claimant to be particularly resilient to the abuse she had suffered over a long period though, with the potential for therapies to improve her further, this placed the claimant in the middle of the bracket: £30,000 awarded. Aggravated damages, because of an abuse of trust and for the humiliations caused to the claimant at having to make disclosure years after the incident: £9,000. Mental distress, an award commonly given in sexual abuse cases, is difficult to quantify. The judge applied the banding used in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2003] ICR 318 CA and, taking into account that the claimant was trapped as she could not tell anyone and could not leave as she then feared that she would have to tell someone, her injuries were commensurate with the upper end of the second band: £16,000. The aggregate sum of general damages was £55,000.

As wrongful conduct occurred at an early stage in the claimant’s life, it is difficult to say what she would have done but for the injury. The judge therefore took a broad brush approach. With loss of earnings claimed at £92,000, taking into account uncertainties, the judge allowed £75,000. Future loss of earnings slightly over 1 year: £30,000. Other sums including for travel, medical treatment and prescription costs were allowed at £12,553. The total figure for damages awarded was £172,553.


This case clearly shows the court’s approach taken in quantifying damages for psychiatric injuries whilst distinguishing between the quantification for mental distress and aggravated damages. 

Kim Pryce and Louise Taylor, Anthony Gold
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