Lim Poh Choo v Camden and Islington AHA [1980] AC 174



The claimant was a senior doctor. She was admitted to a hospital operated by the defendant health service for a minor surgery. The following day in the recovery room she suffered a cardiac arrest which resulted in severe brain damage. She was barely sentient and entirely dependent on 24 hour carers. The defendants admitted liability but disputed the quantum of damages awarded at first instance. 


There were two issues at stake on appeal: firstly, the general grounds on which an appellate court could properly reduce an award of damages; secondly, whether the claimant's unconsciousness should be taken into account in assessing the loss of experience and amenity which she had suffered.


The House of Lords held that the simple fact that an award was high was an insufficient for the Appeal courts to reduce it. It was necessary that some error in the judge's reasoning should be identified. On the second issue, it was held that the claimant’s lack of consciousness did not alter the actuality of deprivation of the ordinary experiences and amenities of life which she had suffered. The defendant's appeal against the quantum of the award was therefore dismissed; although high, the figure reflected the totality of her loss.

Obiter the House suggested that radical overhaul of the law of damages for personal injury was required, but that it was not the place of the courts to implement such changes.