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Damages - human rights

Dobson v Thames Water Utilities
[2009] EWCA Civ 28


A preliminary issue was ordered to determine the relationship between a claim for damages for private nuisance and a claim for damages under s8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998

Where D is a public authority and has acted in breach of Convention rights and negligently (but only then), a person affected may be awarded damages under s 8 if it is necessary to afford D just satisfaction, bearing in mind other relief / remedies granted.

D contended that where damages in private nuisance are awarded, then neither the owner nor any other occupier of the land could obtain damages under s8 because the nuisance damages afforded just satisfaction in respect of all possible claims.

The decision

It was not possible to rule out some damages being awarded under s 8 to a person other than the owner of the land, but whether any such damages should be awarded would have to be considered in light of all the evidence at trial. The fact that damages for nuisance would be awarded to the owner would be a relevant factor when considering whether damages should be awarded to another occupier under s8. However, it was most unlikely that the owner would recover anything under s8 in addition to damages for nuisance.

The reasoning

The case is important as much for its general guidance on the assessment of damages for nuisance as for the human rights element. The judgment indicated the following:
    (1) Damages in nuisance are for the injury to the property, not the injury to the sensibilities of the occupiers – even where the nuisance is in interfering with the comfort and enjoyment of the property (ie loss of amenity), not one causing any physical damage to it (paragraph 31).
    (2) In assessing the loss of amenity, the actual impact on the occupiers should be taken into account (paragraph 35).
    (3) A claimant does not recover damages on behalf of any of the other occupiers (paragraph 36).

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