Samantha Lewis, of Westhill, Aberdeen, brought the unique claim against the driver of the car which collided with that of her mother, Jane Lewis. William Osborne, of Benfleet, Essex, was convicted of careless driving in March 1978 and was fined pounds 25 and had his licence endorsed.
Miss Lewis lived with her father for a short time afterwards but after he remarried spent the next few years bouncing between relatives and council foster homes before finally settling with an aunt in Aberdeen.
Announcing the judgment, Mr Justice Sedley said: "At 13 months of age, Samantha was not capable of appreciating the fact of her mother's death but perfectly capable of becoming aware of her absence.''
Any damages recoverable by Miss Lewis for the injury resulting from the loss of her mother, who was aged 21 at the time of her death, should not be reduced to reflect the "compensatory care given by her aunt and others." The question was whether the loss of her mother's services should be quantified as a loss suffered by "a happy and well-balanced child, which is what Samantha would very probably have been, or by an unhappy and disturbed child, which is what she became.
"The court is today doing what it can to recognise that the injury suffered goes beyond the bare loss of services which could be replaced by employing a housekeeper or nanny, and includes a maternal element ... The courts are called upon in cases such as this to quantify a loss which ... no sum of money can ever repair, and the law under which they have done so ... limits them to a valuation of a mother's services, where the real loss is of a irreplaceable human being.''
The judge reduced the amount Mr Osborne's insurers must pay to Samantha by 25 per cent to pounds 30,000 because her mother was not wearing a seatbelt. Samantha did not attend yesterday's hearing.Reuse content