Civil Appeal No 23 of 2017 - T
Crime victims win bigger payouts
Two men seriously injured by violent crime have won a court battle for bigger compensation payouts.
The Court of Appeal ruled in two separate judgments that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board had been wrong to deduct medical expenses for awards designed to compensate Tajmal Webb and Herbie Spencer for pain and suffering.
Appeal Judge Geoffrey Bell said in the judgment on Mr Webb’s case that the move may have been an effort by the board to stay within its budget.
He said: “Those setting budgetary limits need to decide whether the board should operate as an expression of society’s sympathy and compassion for the harm done to the victim or not.
“It makes no sense to me to make an award for the pain and suffering of a victim and then reduce the amount of that award on account of medical expenses.
“Those responsible for securing the proper administration of the Act must, it seems to me, ensure that there are funds available to allow the board to discharge its functions.”
Mr Webb sustained serious internal injuries after he was shot at Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club in 2015.
He was taken to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in critical condition and was later treated overseas for his injuries, which included a damaged liver.
Mr Spencer suffered spinal injuries after he was attacked with a hammer by his stepson, Garth Bell, in 2014.
The injuries to his spinal cord left him with muscle weakness and other health problems.
Mr Webb originally claimed $207,250, which was above the board’s maximum $100,000 payout, and Mr Spencer at first claimed $170,000, but later this rose to $370,000.
The Court of Appeal said Mr Webb’s 2015 application for compensation had “a paucity of detail” to justify the $200,000-plus asked for. Mr Webb said the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association paid $170,000 for his air ambulance and treatment.
Steven Dore, a doctor who treated Mr Webb, was owed a balance of $23,878.
The Court of Appeal also heard that the board’s budget had been cut several times and it was left with an annual budget of $320,000 to deal with about 20 cases a year.
The board awarded a total of $25,000 in Mr Webb’s case, giving Mr Webb $10,000, the LCCA $10,000 and Dr Dore $5,000.
Mr Spencer had asked for $170,651 in compensation, while the LCCA sought $19,948 in medical expenses and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was owed $11,934.
The board awarded a total of $39,000, with $7,117.46 going to Mr Spencer.
The Court of Appeal added that the board failed to provide proper reasoning for either award.
Mr Justice Bell said: “It is fundamental that a body such as the board should provide reasons for its findings.
“The reasons need not be extensive, but they should be sufficient to explain to the applicant why the board has concluded that each of the headings in its award is appropriate.”
He added: “Awards for pain and suffering to an applicant should not be cut down by deducting from them the payment of medical expenses.
“There is absolutely no warrant for doing so.”
The Court of Appeal found that Mr Spencer was entitled to $20,000 because of the nature of his injuries in addition to the awards for medical expenses, leading to a total award of $51,882.54.
The Court decided to accept the award to Mr Webb of $25,000, but that medical expenses should not be deducted from that figure.
Mr Justice Bell said: “That leaves an amount of $75,000 to be applied towards the outstanding medical expenses.”
• To read the judgments, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”
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