In this personal injury case, the judge had to grapple with an unexpected question – should a Deputy, appointed to manage the personal injury payment made to a brain-injured claimant, be allowed to not tell the claimant the exact amount that was awarded to him?
The case of EXB v FDZ
The case of EXB v FDZ (2018) was very unusual in that it involved an application by the Protected Party’s professional Deputy, and his mother as Litigation Friend, to prevent the Protected Party from knowing the full details of his personal injury settlement, which was deemed to be in his best interests.
This was a complex matter, as the Court recognised that withholding such information inadvertently affected the Protected Party’s rights. Judge Foskett explained in his judgement that he had never come across this issue before and he called upon assistance from Ms. Butler-Cole as a ‘friend of the Court’.
The Protected Party
The Protected Party sustained orthopaedic injuries, alongside a severe brain injury following a road traffic accident. The Protected Party was a backseat passenger in a car driven by the First Defendant. The Protected Party was not wearing a seatbelt and his damages were reduced accordingly, following an admission of contributory negligence.
Why was it in the best interests of the Protected Party to withhold settlement info?
The applicants submitted evidence from both themselves and professionals which detailed the reasons as to why it was in the Protected Party’s best interests to withhold the settlement information.
The Protected Party’s neuropsychologist stated that “Such knowledge would translate and impact upon his behaviour”. It was believed that the Protected Party would become fixated by the sum of money, that it would lead to him being extremely vulnerable and placed into a situation where he was likely to be financially exploited. Interestingly, the Protected Party himself expressed to his Deputy and the Court that he would be better off not knowing the sum; however, he also stated that he was conned into making such a statement. Following the accident, the Protected Party was very impulsive, and he often became very anxious when it came to money, struggling to budget and often living beyond his means.
The Judge gave careful consideration to the evidence submitted, as well as reviewing the relevant legislation, such as the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Following this, the Judge held that the Protected Party lacked the relevant decision-making capacity, finding that it was in the Protected Party’s best interests not to be told the value of the reward. The Judge also considered whether it was within the scope of a normal Deputy Order not to reveal the sum; however, the Deputy argued that it would make the Deputy’s life more difficult if the Protected Party believed that he was personally withholding the information and it was considered more appropriate for the Deputy to state that the Court prevented him from doing so.
Costs of the application
The next issue that arose was in respect of the costs of the application. The Claimant sought the costs of the application to be paid by the Third and Fourth Defendants of the Personal Injury claim, as their tort had necessitated. The Third and Fourth Defendants objected to paying the costs. Their defence stated that “they should not be responsible for the costs because all of the issues between them and the Claimant were concluded by the Settlement which was approved in April 2018” and that this particular issue was a ‘solicitor/own client’ dispute. Within the remit of the initial Personal Injury claim, there was no claim for costs attributable to this issue within the Schedule of Loss and there was also the fear that there may be an “open-ended commitment to pay the costs associated with any repeat applications”.
As the issue had been dealt with under the Court of Protection, it was necessary to apply the Court of Protection costs rules. The general rule being that where the issue concerns financial matters, the costs of all parties are to be borne from the Protected Party’s estate (Rule 19.2). The Court does have a broad discretion to depart from the general rule, if circumstances made a different order more appropriate (Rule 19.5). In this case, the Third and Fourth Defendants had not been made formal parties to the application, but they had been provided with an opportunity to make representations regarding the Costs Order being sought.
Judge Foskett held that the costs were to be borne by the relevant Defendants, as the need to make the application arose directly from their actions following the injury caused to the Protected Party, therefore departing from the general rule.
It will be interesting to see whether there will be any similar applications and what the outcomes will be. The Judge has invited the appropriate bodies to consider these matters and decide whether a consultation on this issue will be required.
This blog was prepared by Danielle Walker who is a Costs Lawyer within the Court of Protection Team. Danielle can be contacted at Danielle.firstname.lastname@example.org