Hunt v Severs – Case Summary

Hunt v Severs

House of Lords

Citations: [1994] 2 AC 350; [1994] 2 WLR 602; [1994] 2 All ER 385; [1994] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 129; [1994] PIQR Q60; (1994) 144 NLJ 603; (1994) 138 SJLB 104.


The claimant was seriously injured while riding in the pillion of the defendant’s motorcycle. The defendant cared for her, and the pair ultimately married. In the subsequent negligence action, the defendant admitted liability but disputed which damages were recoverable. In particular, he argued that the claimant could not recover his hospital travel expenses or the value of the caring services he gave her. The claimant argued that the damages should be recoverable, pointing to past cases which allowed claimants to recover the value of voluntary third-party expenses and caring services gratuitously provided by third parties. The defendant argued that the rule should be different when services are provided by the defendant themselves.

  1. Can a claimant claim damages for costs incurred and services given voluntarily by the defendant?

The House of Lords held in favour of the defendant. The claimant could not recover costs incurred or the value of services gratuitously rendered by the defendant.

This Case is Authority For…

A claimant can recover the value of third-party services voluntarily and gratuitously rendered to them. However, they cannot do this where those services are provided by the defendant. The same is true for any costs the defendant incurs visiting or looking after the claimant.


The House of Lords explained that damages for third-party costs and services are held by the claimant on trust for that third party. The award’s purpose is to compensate the third-party.

As such, it would make no sense to grant damages for costs incurred or services given by the defendant. If the court were to grant such an award, they would make the defendant pay the claimant money to be held on trust for the defendant. The defendant could then demand that the claimant pay him back the money. This would be pointless.