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Council loses appeal over after-care services and personal injury damages

Money iStock 000008683901XSmall 146x219Manchester City Council has lost an appeal over whether a person who has been compulsorily detained in a hospital for mental disorder under the Mental Health Act 1983 and has then been released from detention but still requires "after-care services" is entitled to require his local authority to provide such services at any time before he has exhausted the sums received in damages from his personal injury claim.

In Tinsley v Manchester City Council & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 1704 the claimant, Damien Tinsley, was travelling on a bicycle when he was hit by a car in a road traffic accident on 26 May 1998.

He was left with an organic personality disorder which in turn led to his being compulsorily detained in hospital under s.3 of the 1983 Act.

After being discharged pursuant to the decision of a Mental Health Tribunal he spent time in a mental health nursing home funded by Manchester under s.117 of the Act.

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In the meantime he brought proceedings against the driver involved in the accident who admitted 90% liability for the accident. A judge subsequently assessed those damages in a total sum approaching £3.5m, of which £2,890,257 represented future care.

Following that judgment Mr Tinsley left the nursing home funded by the authorities and since then the cost of his accommodation and after-care services has been paid out of the damages received in the personal injury action.

In 2009 his current deputy was appointed after concerns that his previous deputy had mismanaged his financial affairs.

The current deputy took the view that the claimant was unable to sustain the cost of funding his existing care arrangements and has, since 2010, sought to require Manchester as the relevant local social services authority to comply with what he contended was its duty to provide social care as an after-care service under s.117.

The council’s position was that, since it had no reason to believe that the claimant could not continue to pay for his own care using funds derived from the damages which he received for future care in the personal injury claim, it did not consider itself to be under any duty to provide after-care services under s.117.

The claimant’s position was that Manchester had always been obliged to provide him with appropriate after-care services. He sought an order that it do so in the future and that it pay him "damages" for failure to provide such services since 2005.

In November 2016 HHJ Stephen Davies (sitting in the High Court) decided to resolve the question, whether it was lawful for Manchester to refuse to provide after-care services on the basis that Mr Tinsley had no need for such provision because he could fund it himself from his personal injury damages, as a preliminary issue. He decided it was unlawful and gave the council permission to appeal.

Counsel for Manchester submitted before the Court of Appeal:

(1) that on the true construction of s.117 of the 1983 Act, Manchester was not obliged to provide after-care services if the claimant had been awarded damages for future care and

(2) that to allow such a claim would offend against the principle against double recovery which had been established in the decided cases in the personal injury field, most notably by the Court of Appeal in Crofton v NHSLA [2007] 1 WLR 923 and Peters v East Midlands Strategic Health Authority [2010] QB 48.

The Court of Appeal has this week rejected both of Manchester's arguments.

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