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News International to pay punitive damages to Milly Dowler Family running into 7 figures

The level of damages in legal claims is top of the news again. It appears that lawyers for News International have offered £3million to the parents of Milly Dowler. It is presumably asserted by the parents that their right to privacy has been violated.The highest the court could award the couple is apparently £60,000 each. This maximum figure was set by the judges who dealt with the Max Moseley case.Clearly then, the £3 million offer is not compensatory damages but represents a payment of punitive damages also. This is not an award that the High Court would ever have dreamed of awarding.It is disappointing that this figure has been leaked at all. It is a sad irony that by leaking this figure the Dowler family's right to privacy has been breached yet again.I had to explain compensatory and punitive damages to an American client recently. His mother died in appalling circumstances in an NHS hsopital - from septicaemia due to an infected pressure sore. After providing him with some comparative cases from Lawtel he quickly grasped the point that it is "cheaper to kill than to cure". The damages in his mothers case were much less than in the comparison cases because the treatment was so poor that his mother had deteriorated and died in a very short period. I had to explain that there were no extra damages for "wrongful death" in clinical negligence claims for elderly relatives.Why is it that there are no punitive damages in clinical negligence cases - no matter how awful the circumstances? To an increasing number of my clients that seems to be simply not good enough and an element of punitive damages - in "cover up" cases for example, I think, would be appropriate and send the right message to society.James Bell is a Partner in the Russell Jones & Walker clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.