By: 2 April 2015
Stewarts Law Travel team secures highest reported settlement for paraplegic client

At the beginning of February 2015, Julian Chamberlayne, partner and head of Stewarts Law’s Travel Team, and Chris Deacon, solicitor specialising in international personal injury, settled the High Court case of Sarah Thomas v (1) James Baker and (2) Insurance Commission of Western Australia for the gross sum of £6.25 million.

The settlement is thought to be the highest reported award for a paraplegic claimant in both England & Wales and Western Australia and secures the compensation required by the client to meet her future care, accommodation and rehabilitation needs, including access to regular hydrotherapy and the Ekso-skeleton robotic walking suit to enable her to be upright and walk once again.

On 26 January 2010, Sarah Thomas was involved in a car crash during a road trip in Western Australia. The incident left her with T12 incomplete paraplegia as well as other multiple injuries.

After being advised by a local lawyer, Thomas did not pursue a claim under English jurisdiction. It was only when she returned to England that Julian Chamberlayne instructed Thomas to pursue her claim in England, through Stuarts Law’s specialist international personal injury team.

After dealing with contributory negligence and identifying the appropriate insurer and correct compensator, ICWA, Thomas and Stuarts Law could begin processing claims for compensation. They managed to secure a substantial interim payment and a judgement on liability simultaneously.

As both the driver and Thomas are residents in England, the whereabouts of the accident meant that English law remained applicable to the assessment of damages.

On 4 February 2015 at a settlement meeting with the defendant and its legal advisors the case settled for £6.25m gross. The settlement also includes a provisional damages clause should Thomas develop a symptomatic syrinx in the future. Sarah’s use of the Ekso-skeleton and the new evidence relating to its suitability, together with the further opportunity to attend regular hydrotherapy, helped to convince ICWA and its legal team that an increase of £1 million on their previous offer to settle the claim was appropriate.

Sarah Thomas commented: “I could not have wished for a more outstanding result which far exceeded my expectations. I am elated at such a great outcome. This now enables me to look to a much brighter future and make choices that would otherwise have been out of my reach. I consider myself really very fortunate to have instructed Stewarts Law. They are incredibly skilled at what they do and their reputation continues to precede them. Every person that I had the privilege of working with from Stewarts Law were incredibly professional, approachable and completely trustworthy. Their keen eye for detail alongside their discernment I felt was acutely attuned to me as the individual, meticulously ensuring that every aspect of my life for now and for my future was catered for; what can I say apart from thank-you.”

This is not only the highest reported award of damages for a paraplegic client in England but also in Western Australia where the final award would have been an estimated £2m lower if Sarah had not correctly elected to bring her claim in the English High Court.