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Lynette Valentine v Mark McGinty ? Linlithgow Sheriff Court, May 2008


The Pursuer (aged 38 at Proof) raised an action of damages following a road traffic accident in October 2006. The Defender admitted liability but quantum could be not be agreed. The Pursuer was diagnosed with a whiplash injury and was prescribed painkillers. For about 2 months after the accident, the Pursuer suffered pain in her neck and had to take painkillers. The pain gradually settled over the following 5 months and the Pursuer's symptoms had resolved fully within a year. As a result of her injury, the Pursuer had to have help with tasks round the house several weeks and could not take part in aerobic exercise for 2 – 3 months. The Pursuer argued that £3,500 should be awarded for solatium and the Defender suggested a figure of £2,000. Both parties accepted that the appropriate starting point for valuing solatium was the JSB Guidelines (8th Edition) and that the Pursuer's injury should be classified in the lower bracket in the category of “minor” neck injury, for which the suggested range of damages was £750 to £2,550. Both parties referred to a large number of Sheriff Court cases in support of their suggested figure for damages. The Sheriff did not consider this a useful exercise. He suggested that this would have been appropriate if it had been difficult to fit the Pursuer's injuries into a particular category in the Guidelines or if it had been argued that the JSB Guidelines were incorrect or misleading in some way, but that was not the case.The Sheriff expressed the opinion that, unless there was an obvious difficulty in applying the Guidelines, they were an appropriate starting point in considering damages and, in most cases, the damages actually awarded could be determined by reference to the Guidelines. The Sheriff considered himself bound by the decision of Sheriff Principal Bowen in Symington v Milne (2007, unreported). The facts in that case were difficult to distinguish from those in the present case. In Symington, the Sheriff at first instance had awarded £1,250 as solatium but the Sheriff Principal had increased this to £2,250. The Sheriff awarded damages of £2,250 in the present case but indicated that, if he had not been bound by the decision in Symington, he would have awarded £2,000 as solatium.