Watts v Manning

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date17 March 1964
Judgment citation (vLex)[1964] EWCA Civ J0317-1
Date17 March 1964
CourtCourt of Appeal

[1964] EWCA Civ J0317-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

From Mr. Justice Megaw.


The Master of the Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Pearson and

Lord Justice Salmon.

Evelyn Elizabeth Watts
Plaintiff Appellant
Robert Joseph Sidney Manning
Defendant Respondent

MR E, GARDNER, Q. C, and MR G, HODGSON (instructed by Messrs Meaby & Co.) appeared as Counsel for the Appellant,

MR PATRICK O'CONNOR, Q. C. and MR P. BENNETT (instructed by Messrs G. Howard & Co.) appeared as Counsel for the Respondent.


This is the third of the casca which we have had lately about the mode of trial of actions for personal injuries.


In this case Mrs Watts claims damages for injuries she sustained in a road accident. She says that on the 30th October, 1960, in Heme Hill she was crossing the road when she was struck toy a motor scooter which was being ridden negligently toy the defendant, Mr Manning, The allegation of negligence is denied by Mr Manning. He alleges that the collision was due to Mrs Watts' own fault. Thus far it is a very ordinary running down case. Then Mrs Watts goes on to describe her injuries. There were injuries to her head and nose. Four of her top teeth were knocked out. But the worst of her injuries were the dislocation of her left hip and fracture of the left side of the pelvis. In consequence she says that since the accident she has "been unable to maintain sexual relations with her husband" and it is unlikely that she could conceive or carry a child.


In addition to the wife's action, her husband himself brought a separate action for damages against Mr Manning for the expense to which he has been put on account of his wife's injuries and also for loss of consortium. Applications were made to Master Jacob in each action to decide the mode of trial. Mrs Watts' action was considered first. The Master ordered trial by jury. Her husband's action was considered later. The Master ordered trial by Judge alone.


In Mrs Watts' action, the defendants appealed. The Judge took the view that the two actions would probably be consolidated! and that, on that account, there shouldbe the same mode of trial for both, namely, trial by Judge alone. He also thought that Mrs Watts' claim involved a complicated medical issue, and that was an additional ground for ordering trial by Judge alone.


Mrs Watts now appeals to this Court, asking that her action be tried by jury. Shortly before the appeal came on for hearing in this Court, her husband gave notice of discontinuance of his action. That was only yesterday or this morning. That means there is no longer any suggestion of consolidation. It does away with that part of the Judge's reasoning. But there is still the other reason that he gave, namely, that Mrs Watts' claim involved a complicated medical issue fit for a Judge alone.


In the new situation that has arisen, I think the Judge's discretion is open to review in this Court: and that we should consider it as if it had come before us uncomplicated by the husband's action.


This is an ordinary running down case, with serious physical injuries, and a rather unusual claim for inability to have sexual intercourse. I am quite satisfied that the proper order is trial by Judge alone. Whilst I yield to no one in supporting trial by jury in a case where a man is faced, in a criminal or civil court, with a charge affecting his honour or integrity, nevertheless in most of these personal injury cases it is, I think, better to have trial by Judge alone. The rule says that the discretion of the Judge in chambers is absolute. If that rule were to be interpreted literally, it would make the mode of trial a matter of purechance. One Judge might order trial by jury. Another Judge in a like case might order trial by Judge alone. The mode of trial may make all the difference to the outcome of the case, both on liability and on damages. In fairness to both plaintiffs and defendants, there should be some accepted maxims which in general should be applied, and that is what we have sought to do. Something similar has been done in other cases. Hyman v. Hose. 1912 Appeal Cases, p. 623, was a case of forfeiture where the Court had by statute been given a wide discretion to grant relief on such terms as "the Court thinks fit". The Master of the Eolls in the Court of Appeal had laid down some rules to guide the use of the discretion. The Lord Chancellor saidt "I do not doubt that the rules enunciated by the Master of the Eolls in the present case are useful maxims in general, and that in general they reflect the point of view from which Judges would regard an application for relief". We all know that there are usual terms on which relief is granted from forfeiture. So also there are usual cases in which triaJ is ordered by Judge alone. In order to achieve uniformity, I am quite satisfied that the general rule of practice of the Court should be in personal injury cases to order trial by Judge alone. Even in a case of serious injury such as this, it should be trial by Judge alone. I do not think we are departing from any of the decisions in laying down this maxim for the guidance of the Court.


I think there is no reason for interfering with the order for trial by Judge alone here and I would dismiss the appeal.


I agree.


We were told that Ur Bennett, in arguing the case before the leagued Judge, gave seven reasons why trial should be by Judge alone in this case and why trial by jury would be dis advantageous. The first was that it appears from the pleadings that possibly some complicated medical issues will arise and the contention was that they are more suitable far trial by Judge alone than by jury. Then there were five reasons or five disadvantages of trial by jury of a general character. The first was that having rerd to the time taken and expense involved in trial by jury, it will cost more than trial by Judge alone. Then there were certain reasons which were stated very clearly in Hennell v. Ranaboldo. reported in this Court in 1963, 1 Weekly Law Reports, page 1391, and the observations are to be found at page 1392 in the Master of the Rolls' Judgment and at page 1393 in Lord Justice Diplock's Judgment. They can he summarised very shortly, as I think they were summarised before the learned Judge. first of all there is the impossibility of securing uniformity of awards in jury trials and the much better chance of securing uniformity if a scale, which has been evolved by what Lord Justice Diplock called damage-awarding tribunals, can be observed and applied. Secondly, in a jury trial no reference can be made to other awards in other cases which might be of some assistance to them in ascertaining what the scale is. It is established that it is not right to refer to such other awards. Then there is the further major difficulty with regard to appeals. If it is felt that the award of a jury in regard to the amount assessed is wrong, there is very great dsy in getting it put right in this Court, as was illustrat ed by the two cases which have been mentioned. One is Morey's case and the other is Warren's case. key were decided by Uiis Court qufte recently and they are both to be found reported in 1964, 1 Weekly Law Reports. Theyillustrate very well the difficulty that can arise from the fact that this Court has to be very slow in interfering with the decision of a jury in any matter, and in particular in the assessment of the amount of damages in such a case. There is a further point, which is of a more controversial character but there is something in it, and that is this. It has always been considered improper that a jury should be informed that the defendant is supported by an insurance company. The reason why it was considered improper...

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5 cases
  • Perwira Habib Bank Malaysia Bhd v Soon Peng Yam and Others
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 31 October 1994
  • Ward v James
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal
    • 25 January 1965
    ...in the Hennell case to be a requirement before a jury should be ordered. 5 There is one further case, on the 17th March of this year, Watts v. Manning, which came into the reports in May 1964, (1964 1 Weekly Law Reports page 624). That carried the matterstill further. 6 I do not propose to ......
  • Gerlach v Clifton Bricks Pty Ltd
    • Australia
    • High Court
    • 30 May 2002
    ...Western Railway Co [1937] 2 KB 130. 40 Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933 (UK), s 6. 41 See Watts v Manning [1964] 1 WLR 623; [1964] 2 All ER 267; Hennell v Ranaboldo [1963] 1 WLR 1391; [1963] 3 All ER 684; Sims v William Howard & Son Ltd [1964] 2 QB 42 cf Pambula......
  • Gerlach v Clifton Bricks Pty Ltd
    • Australia
    • High Court
    • 30 May 2002
    ...Western Railway Co [1937] 2 KB 130. 40 Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933 (UK), s 6. 41 See Watts v Manning [1964] 1 WLR 623; [1964] 2 All ER 267; Hennell v Ranaboldo [1963] 1 WLR 1391; [1963] 3 All ER 684; Sims v William Howard & Son Ltd [1964] 2 QB 42 cf Pambula......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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