Court Rejects Moral Damages and Permanent Psychological Disability Claims
In a judgment delivered on the 28th of June 2022 in the names of Rapa et vs Chircop et, sworn application number 886/2018, the First Hall Civil Court was tasked with apportioning responsibility and liquidating damages consequent to a traffic accident which occurred between the car driven by the defendant Chircop and the pedestrian Rapa who had passed away as a result of the accident.
In a rare decision, responsibility was not totally allocated to the driver of the vehicle. The Court analysed the CCTV footage which captured the accident as well as various witness testimonies including experts appointed to analyse the footage and ascertain the speed of the vehicle which was considered excessive. In its considerations the Court remarked that the defendant had acted in breach of traffic regulations by doing an illegal U Turn yet this had no bearing on the dynamics of the accident itself. The Court further noted that the pedestrian had been hurriedly walking to cross the street going over the central strip having palm trees and later running to cross the second section of the road. This led the Court to conclude that the actions and omissions of both the driver and the pedestrian had led to them not seeing each other and not keeping the requisite look out. Indeed, it was apparent that the pedestrian had placed herself in danger by crossing a four lane road with cars going in opposite directions thus attempting to avoid vehicles by running across a street of over ten metres in width instead of crossing from a pedestrian crossing. Based on these circumstances the Court considered that both the pedestrian and the driver should be allocated 50% responsibility for the accident.
The Court then had to consider the damages being claimed by the applicants who had filed the case in their capacity as heirs of their daughter.
Apart from the loss of future earnings and actual expenses suffered, the heirs of the deceased had further and uncommonly claimed disability, corroborated by a court appointed expert, that considered that they had been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their daughter’s passing. While this conclusion as made by the court appointed expert was contested on numerous grounds, including the fact that it departed from the conditions found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it was also argued that the heirs could not make a claim for damages they themselves had allegedly suffered due to the fact that the proceedings were filed in their role as heirs of the deceased, and thereby the heirs could merely claim that which would have been due to their daughter had she been alive and able to pursue proceedings in her name. The Court considering that the latter argument as made by the defendants was justified, dismissed the claim for damages due to the alleged disability of the heirs without entering into the merits of that disability given that the Court was of the opinion that it would be going ultra and/or extra petita, thus deciding on a matter which went beyond the requests made in the initial application, had such a claim been accepted.
Lastly, when considering the claim for moral damages the Court entered into an analysis of Article 1045 of the Civil Code of Malta which had been amended in 2018 noting also the arguments made by the defendants that article 1045 did not consider moral damages at the time the accident took place and furthermore that the article as amended excludes compensation for moral damages in cases where the criminal action which has led to the damage is of an involuntary nature. The Court accepted the defendants’ arguments and considered that the claim for moral damages was thus unsustainable.
The defendants were represented by Av. Christine Calleja and Av. Kirk Brincau of Mamo TCV Advocates.
This document does not purport to give legal, financial or tax advice. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Christine Calleja or Dr. Kirk Brincau.
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