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The State of Madras Represented by the Collector of Coimbatore Vs. James Appadurai and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 200 of 1955
Judge
Reported inAIR1959Mad369; (1959)1MLJ278
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 338
AppellantThe State of Madras Represented by the Collector of Coimbatore
RespondentJames Appadurai and anr.
Appellant AdvocateGovt. Pleader and ;N.S. Srinivasan, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateK. Thirumalai and ;C.R. Vedachalam, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredVinayaga Mudaliar v. Parthasarathi Ayyangar
Excerpt:
.....to damages for personal injuries, there are three heads under which damages can be recovered: (1) personal suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; (ii) actual pecuniary loss resulting to and expenses reasonably incurred by the plaintiff; and (iii) the probable future loss of income by reason of incapacity or diminished capacity for work.; in so far as the injury results in actual pecuniary loss, past or prospective, the plaintiff should be awarded full compensation for that loss; but that does not mean that, in the case of loss of prospective earning, the plaintiff is to be awarded his annual earnings, multiplied by the number of years for which he could be expected to have worked, if he had not been injured. a simple calculation of that sort ignores many contingencies which would or..........v. parthasarathi ayyangar, 7 mad lw 415 : (air 1919 mad 1067). in that case, the trial court awarded damages of rs. 12,000 and a bench of this court reduced it to rs. 6000.11. the learned subordinate judge in this case basing himself upon this decision as the nearest approach to the present case, came to the conclusion that a sum of rs. 10,000 would be the correct amount of compensation to be paid here. he pointed out that this plaintiff has studied upto the 4th class and his elder brother is a cleaner earning rs. 30 a month and that the plaintiff was put in a temporary job as seller of ice fruit till be could joint the st. michaels' workshop to learn the fitter's job, whereas in 7 mad lw 415 : (air 1919 mad 1087), the plaintiff's father was practically a pauper earning nothing and.....
Judgment:
1. This appeal is directed against the decree and judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge of Coimbatore in O. S. No. 24 of 1952.

2. The plaintiff is the son of a carpenter who has studied unto the fourth class. His elder brother is a cleaner earning Rs. 30 a month. The plaintiff also wanted to become a fitter and the selling of ice fruit by him, was apparently only a temporary job till the plaintiff reached sufficient age to join the St. Michael's Workshop to learn the fitter's job. In these circumstances on the date of the occurrence, viz., 10 a.m., on 16-7-1950, the plaintiff after returning from Church was sitting on the culvert near the main gate of the Forest College with one of his legs folded and resting on it and his other leg hanging down.

Then a bus bearing M.D.C. 3967 belonging to the Arthur Hope's College of Technology, now known as the Government College of Technology, crossed this culvert near main gate of the Forest College, Coimbatore. There is no dispute that this bus was driven so rashly and negligently that it dashed against the culvert and hit the plaintiffs left leg, which was hanging down, and severed it below the knee, thereby causing the plaintiff very serious injuries.

The plaintiff fell down unconscious after the incident and he was taken to the Government Headquarters hospital, Coimbatore, where he was treated as an inpatient for a period of 35 days. At the hospital his left leg below the knee has been amputated and he is now moving about with crutches with difficulty. The Government bus driver charged under Section 338, I.P.C., was convicted and sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonment.

3. In these circumstances, the plaintiff on the foot that he had become permanently incapacitated and that he is unable to go about his normal business, and much less to do any work, and that this was due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus by the second defendant, a servant of the first defendant, in the course of his employment as such seivant, filed the suit out of which this appeal arises, in the pauper form for recovery of Rs. 23,180, from the defendants by way of damages.

4. The contentions of the defendants are reflected from the following issues framed in the case, viz.,

1. Was the plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence?

2. What is the correct amount of compensation payable to the plaintiff?

The learned Subordinate Judge found that the plaintiff was not guilty of contributory negligence and that a sum of Rs. 10,000 would be the correct amount of compensation payable to the plaintiff. The State of Madras has appealed against this decree and judgment on the foot that the amount of compensation awarded by the learned Subordinate Judge erred on the side of being excessive and disproportionate to the damages caused to the plaintiff in this case.

5. The principles regulating damages for personal injuries can be gathered from the standard treatises on the subject and concerning which the case-law in this country is thoroughly sparse.

6. The following passage from Mayne's Treatise on Damages, 11th Edn. at p. 485 under the heading "Compensation for personal injury" is apposite :

"Very little can he said with certainty as to damages for personal injuries inflicted by negligence. Loss of time during the cure, and expense incurred in respect of it, are of course matters of easy calculation. Pain and suffering undergone by the plaintiff arc also a ground of damages. Any permanent injury, especially when it causes a disability from future exertion, and consequent pecuniary loss, is also a ground of damage.

This is one of the cases in which damages most signally fail to be a real compensation for the loss sustained. In one case Parke B. said. "It would he most unjust if, whenever any accident occurs, juries were to visit the unfortunate cause of it with the utmost amount which they think an equivalent for the mischief done. Scarcely any sum could compensate a labouring man for the loss of a limb, yet you do not in such a case give him enough to maintain him for life."

7. G. Kameswara Rao, in his Law of Damages and Compensation, 2nd Edn. at p. 907 says ;

"Damages in this form of action are also very much 'at large' and it will he futile to make an attempt to define the limits to which the amount may go. All that can be said is that the amount of compensation must be fair and reasonable, but an absolute compensation is not the true measure of damages.

Generally there are three heads under which damages can be recovered in this action - (i) personal suffering and loss of enjoyment of lite; (ii) actual pecuniary loss resulting to and expenses reasonably incurred by the plaintiff; and (iii) the probable future loss of income by reason of incapacity or diminished capacity for work. Sriram v. Delhi Electric Tramway, Lighting Co. Ltd. 49 Ind Cas 435: (AIR 1919 Lah 213), Vishnu Digambar v. B. B. and C.I. Rly. Co, AIR 1924 Bom 278, Gwalior and Northern India Transport Co. Ltd. v. Dinkar Durga Shankar, (S) AIR 1955 Madh.-B. 214... .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. ... .... .. .. .. ..

Personal suffering, damages for : Under the head damages cannot be measured by any precise rule, and it is scarcely intended to be a full compensation for the injury sustained. The principle of "restitutio in integrum" is an unattainable ideal in this respect. As Lord Halsbury observed "How is anybody to measure pain and suffering in moneys counted? Nobody can suggest that you can by any arithmetical calculation establish what is the exact amount of money which represent such a thing, as the pain and suffering which a person has undergone by reason of an accident (In the Mediana, 1900 AC 113, In Phillips v. London and South Western Railway Co., 1879-4 QBD 406, Field, J. in charging the jury observed as follows in regard to this head of damage;

'Perfect compensation is hardly possible, and would be unjust. Yon cannot put the plaintiff back into his original position, but you must bring your reasonable common sense to bear and you must always recollect that this is the only occasion on which compensation can be given. Dr. Phillips can never sue again for it. You have, therefore, now to get him compensation, once and for all. He has done no wrong; he has suffered a wrong at the hands of the defendants, and you must take care to give him full fair compensation for that which he has suffered.' .. .. .. .. ..

From an examination of the cases, it will be found that substantially large amounts have been awarded by Courts as damages under this head, though not, of course, without a feeling of regret for their inability to grant more. It is, however, clear that the court must be careful not to award an excessive amount, having regard to the defendant's means'. Mary Letmon v. Percy Fisher, AIR 1924 Bom 207, Sorabji Hormusji v. Jamshedji Merwanjee, 21 Ind Cas 705 : (AIR 1914 Bom 218), (sum awarded Rs. 10000); Corporation of Calcutta v. Anderson ILR 10 Cal 445 (Rs. 6500); Kessowjee v. G.I.P. Rly. Co., 6 Bom LR 673 (Rs. 6000); Prakash Kumar v. Harvey, ILR 36 Cal 1021, (Rs. 400); See also 2665 as granted in John Victis Carcw Wyllie v. Secretary of State, AIR 1928 Lah 346; F. Gahan's Law of Damages, 1936, p. 109-111 :

"Of recent years the large number of motor car accidents has made the damages for personal injuries caused by negligence of special importance. It is not challenged that the expense of reasonable medical treatment attendance and extra nourishment necessitated by the injuries can be recovered, as can the earnings lost ciuring the period of incapacity. Pain and suffering, including mental suffering because of the shortened, expectation of life, are also taken into account. But unconsciousness negatives pain and suffering and where the expectation of life is shortened there must he evidence that knowledge of the fact increased the mental distress of the injured person, ... . ,

The assessment of damages for personal injuries is unusually difficult. Opinion wilt differ widely on the proper compensation for pain and suffering. Moreover, damages must be assessed once and for all. The possibility of a speedy and complete recovery has to he balanced against the possibility of serious complications in the future. It would he clearly wrong to award a plaintiff such a sum as would compensate him for the worst that could possibly happen, hut the sum awarded should, in accordance with the general rule put the injured party, so far as money can put him, in the same position as if he had not been wronged.

Thus, regard would he had, in the light of the medical and other evidence, to the probable duration of suffering and disability." The Edison (1931) p. 230 at 237; Liesbosch (Owners) v. The Edison, 1933 AC 449; Flint v. Lovell, 1935-1 KB 354; Slater v. Spreage, 1936-1 KB 83; Rose v. Ford, 1936-1 KB 90, (1879) 4 QBD 406; Phillips v. London and South Western Rly. Co. (1879) 5 QBD 78.

The most exhaustive attempt to measure damages in the several types of cases which arise has been made in the well-known American treatise Sedgwick. Measure of Damages, (4 volumes).

8. In their valuable monograph, the Quantum of Damages in Personal Injury Cairns, Kemp and Kemp, say at pp. 12 to 15 :

"If the damage suffered is capable of being calculated in terms of money, no difficulty in theory arises in the application of this rule. The person suffering the damages is entitled to full compensation for the pecuniary injury suffered. The difficulty arises in the case of heads of damages which cannot be calculated in terms of money. For, as the. Earl of Halsbury L. C. said in 1900 AC 113 at p. 116. 'You very often cannot even lay down any principle upon which you can give damages ........... Take the most familiar and ordinary case; how is anybody to measure pain and suffering in moneys counted? Nobody can suggest that you can by any arithmetical calculation establish, what is the exact sum of money which would represent such a thing as the pain and suffering which a person has undergone by reason of an accident .......... But nevertheless the law recognises that as a topic upon which damages may be given.'

The same applies to other heads of damages which cannot be measured in terms of money such as loss of a limb, loss of sense, loss of expectation of life etc. Faced with this problem the courts have solved it by saying that the injured man should be given reasonable compensation. The courts do not proceed upon the principle of attempting to give perfect compensation for such matters.

If they did, there would be no limit to the amount of damages, for no sum would be equivalent for the loss, say, of a man's eyes. What is a reasonable sum for any one of the innumerable items of damages which do not admit of arithmetical calculation can only be assessed in the light of the previous awards made by the courts in comparable cases.

It is submitted that the correct approach to the assessment of damages in personal injury claims can be summarised thus ;

1. In so far as the injury results in actual pecuniary loss, past or prospective, the plaintiff should be awarded full compensation for that loss; but that does not mean that in the case of loss of prospective earnings the plaintiff is to be awarded his annual earnings multiplied by the number of years for which he could be expected to have worked, if he had not been injured. A simple calculation of that sort ignores many contingencies which would or might operate to reduce the plaintiff's future earnings and so would mean that the plaintiff would get more than full compensation for his loss.

2. In so far as the injury results in damage which does not admit at assessment by arithmetical calculation, the plaintiff should " be awarded fair and reasonable compensation, such compensation to be assessed in the light of previous awards in respect of comparable damage." Monarch Steamship Co. v. Karlshamns Oljefabrikar, 1949 AC 196; Admiralty Commissioners v. Susquenhanna (Owners), 1926 AC 655 at p. 661; Manley v. Rugby Partland Cement Co., 1952 CA No, 286; Brady v. Yorkshire Traction Ltd. 1953 OA No. 236; Crawford v. Erection Co. Ltd., 1953 CA No. 254; Rush-ton v. National Coal Board, 1953-1 All. ER 314; British Transport Commission v. Gourley, 1955-3 All ER 796; Wilson v. Pilley, 1957-3 All ER 525.

9. To sum up in the language of Lord Birkett, L.J. in his Foreword to the above treatise:

"Anybody who has ever had the duty of assessing damages either in the courts or outside them is fully aware of the difficulties with which that duty is beset. Questions of liability (with which this book does not profess to deal) are often difficult enough, but the decisions of the courts over many years and the invaluable work of the text book writers have provided a clear guide to the principle which governs liability.

But it can never be possible to formulate any such clear guide in the assessment of damages, though certain principles have become clear enough. For each case depends upon its own peculiar and particular facts, and experience has shown that the facts can vary almost infinitely. It was this circumstance which led Lord Wright to say in Davies v. Powell Duffryn, 1942 AC 601: 1942-1 All ER 657, that 'there is generally so much room for individual choice that the assessment of damages is more like the exercise of discretion than an ordinary act of decision.' How often has a Judge said to himself when confronted with some terrible human tragedy -- the complete logs of sight or the complete paralysis of the body, for example --what Bvrne, J. said openly in 1933-1 QB 495: 1953-1 All ER 314. This is a case in which money cannot really compensate at all ..........' And yet compensation must be assessed in money even if it appears to be 'measuring and immeasurable' as Romer. L.J. said when reviewing the assessment made by Byrne, J. in the same case."

Therefore, each case has to be decided on its own merits, guided by previous awards in respect of comparable damages. But unfortunately owing to totally different economic circumstances English decisions collected and discussed in Kemp and Kemp arc of little use to us. The English decisions relating to damages arising from Joss of one leg are : Mulready v. Bell, 1953-2 All ER 215 at p. 218; Bradley v. Baldwin Ltd. 1952 CA 32; Lee v. Manchester, 1953 CA 277; Shearman v. Folland, 3950-2 KB 43 (CA); Lindstedt, 83 LCLR 19.

10. The nearest approach to tilts case is the one in Vinayaga Mudaliar v. Parthasarathi Ayyangar, 7 Mad LW 415 : (AIR 1919 Mad 1067). In that case, the trial Court awarded damages of Rs. 12,000 and a Bench of this court reduced it to Rs. 6000.

11. The learned Subordinate Judge in this case basing himself upon this decision as the nearest approach to the present case, came to the conclusion that a sum of Rs. 10,000 would be the correct amount of compensation to be paid here. He pointed out that this plaintiff has studied upto the 4th class and his elder brother is a cleaner earning Rs. 30 a month and that the plaintiff was put in a temporary job as seller of ice fruit till Be could joint the St. Michaels' Workshop to learn the fitter's job, whereas in 7 Mad LW 415 : (AIR 1919 Mad 1087), the plaintiff's father was practically a pauper earning nothing and his elder brother was earning" Rs. 30 a month, he being a failed matriculate, and that the conditions of life have since changed and the cost of living has now become much higher and that therefore the sum of Rs. 6000 awarded in the decision above cited would have to be considerably enhanced in order to meet the circumstances of this case. The learned Subordinate Judge also pointed out that more opportunities are now open to a young man in getting employment in workshops as cleaners, drivers of buses etc., than when the 7 Mad LW 415 : (AIR 1919 Mad 1067) case arose.

12. We entirely agree with the learned Subordinate Judge that the sum of Rs. 10,000 awarded by way of damages is a correct compensation and we see no reason to interfere with the same. This appeal is dismissed with costs.


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