Simpson v Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust [2011]

Background

This was a negligence case where Mrs Simpson, a widow whose husband caught MRSA at the Trust, sought to claim damages in her own name and for her own benefit for an unrelated person, Alan Catchpole. Mr Catchpole had like Mr Simpson suffered an MRSA infection but unlike Mr Simpson's it was not fatal. Mrs Simpson appeared to take on the case as part of a campaign against the hospital.

The Ratio

The matter was appealed to the judge who found that the assignment was void because the claim was of a personal nature and incapable of assignment, but that even if it were capable of assignment, Mrs Simpson did not have an interest of a sufficient kind to support a valid assignment.

At the Court of Appeal, they concluded in line with other cases that

"...the assignment of a bare right of action would not be enforced in equity because it would undermine the law relating to maintenance and champerty. It was clear from the decision in Trendex Trading Corporation v Credit Suisse [1982], a decision of the House of Lords, that the law would not recognise on the grounds of public policy an assignment of a bare right to litigate unsupported by an interest of a kind that was sufficient to justify the assignee’s pursuit of proceedings for his own benefit."

What is the application

Where there has been an assignment of debt, a challenge should be made of the basis of the assignment. Almost all the cases seen so far fail the test set in both Trendex and in Simpson.

You can download a copy of the case below.

 

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