piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Long live the Litigant in Person

Some of the readership may have heard there was a move by the Civil Justice Council to rebrand LiP’s “Self Representing Litigants”.   This is now not going to happen. Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls has stated:   “The term ‘Litigant in Person’ (LiP) should continue to be the sole term used to describe individuals who exercise their right to conduct legal proceedings on their own behalf “   See the short practice guidance by following this link:   https://dl.dropbox.com/u/18097599/annex-a-practice-guidance_litigants-in-person-2.pdf   This sensible decision is welcome as it was important to clear this up before "J day" as it is widely expected that there will be many more LiPs as a result of the costs reforms.    

CFAs prior to 1st April 2013 - will the old or new rules apply?

What do you have to do to ensure that Parts 43 to 48 of the existing rules continue to apply to CFAs entered into before 1st April 2013? Do advocacy or litigation services have to be provided before 1st April 2013 or not? For the existing rules to continue to apply to CFAs entered into before 1st April 2013 what needs to be done prior to 1st April 2013 will depend on whether you are acting under a Conditional Fee Agreement or a Collective Conditional Fee Agreement (those are the two funding arrangements defined by rule 43.2(1)(k)(i) of the existing rules). If you enter into a Conditional Fee Agreement prior to 1st April 2013 specifically for the purposes of provision of advocacy or litigation services to a person in relation to the matter which is the subject of proceedings then the new rules (CPR r.48.2(1)(a)(i)(aa)) state that the old Parts 43 to 48 will apply (with modifications about which we are yet to hear). There does not appear to be any suggestion that advocacy or litigation services actually need to be provided prior to 1st April 2013. The story is different if you have a Collective Conditional Fee Agreement. In that case the new rules seem to state that, for the old rules to apply, you have to have provided advocacy or litigation services to the person by whom the success fee is payable prior to 1st April 2013. The drafters of the rules could have made it a lot easier to understand what they were getting at by actually referring to CFAs in r.48.2(1)(a)(i)(aa) and CCFAs in r.48.2(1)(a)(i)(bb). A bit more clarity is provided by the explanatory note to Article 6 of the Conditional Fee Agreements Order 2013 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111533437) which states “Article 6 contains a transitional and saving provision. The effect of the transitional provision is to provide that articles 4 and 5 do not apply to a CFA entered into in respect of a claim for personal injuries, or to a collective CFA under which advocacy or litigation services are provided to a person in respect of that claim, before the day on which these regulations comes into force” (i.e. 1st April 2013). That’s my take on the current rules which are still being finalised. I ought to add, in the time-honoured fashion, that this does not constitute legal advice and liability for any reliance placed on it is disclaimed…

Post Jackson CPR Amendments published – a brave new world?

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee has published CPR amendments due to come into force on 1st April 2013. Some of the key provisions for PI practitioners are as follows:- Amendment to the Overriding Objective The overriding objective will become not just “to deal with cases justly” but also “at proportionate cost”; and the definition of “dealing with a case justly” will now include “enforcing compliance with rules, practice directions and orders”. This puts both costs and compliance with directions right at the heart of the Rules – with these changes it will become more difficult to point a judge to the overriding objective when asking him or her to overlook a breach of the rules. Relief from Sanctions Talking about breaches or rules and court orders, CPR 3.9 is to be revised taking out the familiar checklist. Instead, the court will consider all the circumstances, including specifically the need for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost, and the need to enforce compliance with rules, practice directions and court orders. As above, this does represent a significant shift in approach. Costs Management The amendments will introduce a comprehensive set of rules on cost management for multi-track cases, including costs budgets. These merit detailed consideration. There are some sanctions in the event that these rules are not complied with – for example, failure to file a costs budget will mean the litigant is treated as having filed a budget comprising only the applicable court fees (unless the court orders otherwise – see above). Increased Small Claims Track limit The Small Claims Track limit is raised to £10,000: but low value personal injury claims for general damages over £1,000 will continue to be Fast Track cases. The current rules regarding harassment; unlawful eviction relating to residential premises; and disrepair will remain. New Provisions relating to Disclosure These will include a requirement for parties to discuss and seek to agree a proposal in relation to disclosure meeting the overriding objective. Bonus for Claimants beating Part 36 offers In addition to interest on damages; costs on the indemnity basis; and interest on those costs, Claimants who beat their own Part 36 offers will be entitled to an “additional amount”, 10% of the sum awarded to the Claimant (where the claim is a money claim) up to £500,000 and 5% of the sum above that, up to a maximum £75,000. For non-money claims, the bonus applies to the sum awarded to the Claimant in respect of costs. Costs CPR 43 is revoked, and Parts 44 – 48 are replaced in full. That’s to say, all the existing sections of the CPR relating to costs are to be changed. Below are some of the key points from the new provisions:- Assessment of Costs When assessing costs, the court will “only allow costs which are proportionate to the matters in issue”. Costs that are disproportionate may be disallowed even if they were reasonably or necessarily incurred. Costs are proportionate if they bear a “reasonable relationship” to the sums in issue; the value of non-monetary relief; the complexity of the litigation; additional work caused by the paying party’s conduct; any wider factors such as reputation or public importance. This rule only applies to cases commenced after 1st April 2013. Qualified One-Way Costs Shifting This applies in personal injuries and Fatal Accident claims. It does not apply to pre-action disclosure. There is no means test: this is of general application. Qualified one-way costs shifting means that costs orders may be enforced against a claimant only to the extent that the aggregate sum of such orders does not exceed the aggregate sum of damages and interest made in favour of the Claimant. In practice, this will work as follows:-   a) Where a claim is dismissed, the Claimant receives no damages or interest. A costs order will be made in the Defendant's favour, but the Defendant will not be able to enforce the costs order against the Claimant to any extent.   b) The Claimant recovers damages, but fails to beat the Defendant's Part 36 offer. A costs order will be made in the Defendant's favour pursuant to Part 36. But this can only be enforced up to the total of the damages and interest payable to the Claimant. So if the Claimant is awarded £20,000 damages and interest, this figure provides a cap on the costs that can be enforced against the Claimant.   c) Interim costs orders have been made in the Defendant's favour, but the Claimant untimately succeeds. As above, the Defendant will be able to enforce its costs orders, but only up to the total of the Claimant's damages and interest. There are some exceptions, though:- Where proceedings have been struck out on the basis that a) they disclose no reasonable grounds for bringing the proceedings; b) the proceedings are an abuse of process; or c) where the Claimant’s conduct is likely to obstruct the just disposal of proceedings, there is no qualified one-way costs shifting. Where the claim has been found to be “fundamentally dishonest” the court may grant permission for the Defendant fully to enforce the costs order. Claimant’s Costs where there is a Damages-Based Agreement The Court will make the same costs order in the Claimant’s favour as if there were no damages-based agreement.

Applicable Law in Tort under Rome II and English Case Management Decisions

    It’s one of the oldest chestnuts in private international law and has been brought into sharper focus by the Rome II Regulation on applicable law in tort. Assume that the English Claimant is catastrophically injured in a road traffic accident in France. The Claimant sues the tortfeasor’s French insurer in the English Courts (in line with his right to do so under section 3 of the Brussels I Regulation and the Odenbreit (2007) decision of the ECJ). Liability is not in issue and it is agreed that, by reason of Articles 4 and 15 of Rome II, French law will apply to the assessment of the Claimant’s damages. The Claimant wishes to rely on a panel of English experts (medico-legal and non-medical) of the kind usually instructed in catastrophic injury claims case managed and tried in this jurisdiction. The Defendant insurer, by contrast, wishes to restrict the Claimant to the sort of expertise that a French Court would rely upon (usually, one principal expert and a very limited number of additional experts). The Defendant’s argument is that the English Court – required to assess damages on a French law basis – needs, so far as possible, to adopt and replicate the approach that would be taken by a French Court. The Claimant argues that the selection and instruction of expert witnesses is a matter reserved to the law of the forum (English law) by reason of Article 1.3 of Rome II. An issue of just this kind arose in the very recent decision of Tugendhat J in Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers Assurances [2013] QB 53 (QB). The following preliminary issue was tried, “Does the issue of which expert evidence the court should order fall to be determined: (a) By reference to the law of the forum (English Law) on the basis that this is an issue of ‘evidence and procedure’ within Article 1.3 of Rome II; or (b) By reference to the applicable law (French law) on the basis that this is an issue falling within Article 15 of Rome II?” The academic writing on this issue was somewhat mixed and inconclusive. However, Tugendhat J resolved the preliminary issue – thought to be the first time this question had been tried in this jurisdiction – by accepting the Claimant’s argument: the instruction of experts is a matter of evidence and procedure and, therefore, a matter for the law of the forum (English law). There is an application by the French insurer for permission to appeal.

Claimant’s solicitors pay wasted costs in RTA case

  The defendant insurers in the case of Rasoul v Linkevicius (5th October 2012, Unreported), successfully obtained a wasted costs order against claimant solicitors in an RTA claim. The case is a warning to claimant solicitors in RTA claims where there is an allegation of fraud and parties/witnesses who do not speak English. For defendants it is a lesson in how clear allegations set out from early on can have devastating consequences.  The background facts are similar to those commonly encountered in practice. Following the RTA correspondence ensued between the claimant’s solicitors and the defendant insurers. A modest PI claim was made and the insurers questioned the bona fides of the claim. The Defence pleaded fraud clearly against the claimant. He served a witness statement which did not have an integral statement of truth – the statement appeared on a separate sheet of paper rather than being part of the body of the statement itself. Two witnesses provided statements with statements of truth. At trial the claimant gave no evidence as only spoke Kurdish and was illiterate. His statement had been in English and not translated. The husband and wife witnesses were Kurdish. The husband spoke reasonable English but had given his statement over the phone to a solicitor he had not met and at trial he said that his statement was a substantial expansion of what he told the solicitor. The other witness (his wife) spoke no English – her husband translated for her whilst the solicitor took the statement over the phone. She gave evidence that she had never spoken to the solicitor before the statement arrived. Unsurprisingly the case was dismissed and the judge referred to either the extreme incompetence on the part of the solicitors or an attempt to establish a case on fabricated evidence. The insurer made an application for a waste costs order against the solicitors. The judge made an order on the basis that there was no evidence of a proper signed statement from the claimant or the witness taken before proceedings were issued. Although an interpreter turned up at trial he was not allowed to be used as there had been no order relating to his attendance. The judge was critical that the witnesses were not seen face to face by the solicitors given the allegations of fraud. He concluded that proper competent work by the solicitors would have ensured that the case collapsed long before the trial took place. Defendants will be alert to the possibility of pursuing claimant solicitors where fraud has been alleged, there has been incompetence on the part of claimant solicitors which, had it not taken place, would have been likely to have meant the case would not have gone ahead. Claimants will want to see witnesses and take statements face to face where there are allegations of fraud. They must ensure that a proper ‘integral’ statement of truth is signed on the witness statement. If someone is unable to speak English it is essential that a translator is involved in the process of taking the statement, that the statement is translated, the translator makes an appropriate statement (see Practice Direction to Part 32) and the presence of a translator at trial is anticipated by a court order. Careful preparation needs to be undertaken so that solicitors can protect themselves by showing that a witness did give the evidence set out in the statement – even if they deny it at trial and seek to blame it on the solicitors.  

Should the solicitor pay up?

Can a solicitor be liable for costs if he or she takes on a case for an impecunious claimant under a CFA where there is no ATE insurance policy in place and where he or she funds the disbursements necessary to allow the case to proceed?   Neil Hamilton famously sued Mohammed Al-Fayed for defamation over ‘cash for questions’, lost and was ordered to pay £1.3m in costs. Mr Al-Fayed then pursued Mr Hamilton’s financial backers (not parties to the litigation) for costs, lost and was ordered to pay their costs. Unsurprisingly there has not been as much media attention and public interest in the case of Tinseltime v Eryl Roberts [2012] EWHC 2628 which was a case in the technology and construction court. There was no personal injury involved: the claimant claimed that the defendant had created dust whilst demolishing a building and the dust had damaged machinery and caused a loss of profit. The claim was unsuccessful and the claimant was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs. The defendants applied for an order under section 51(3) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 and/or CPR 48.2 that the claimant’s solicitor pay the costs as a non-party funder. The claimant’s solicitor had entered into a CFA. He had been unduly optimistic about how straightforward the issue of liability would be. It was clear that he was aware that if the claimant lost it would not be able to pay costs. He estimated the overall costs likely to be incurred to be £20,000 and disbursements, £10,000. In the event disbursements amounted to £22,270 and so burnt a sizeable hole in his pocket. He had expected to recover the disbursements from the defendant (if successful). The judge concluded that the following were the correct legal principles to apply. The first question was whether it just in all the circumstances to make an order. Secondly, when considering a solicitor, had he acted beyond or outside his role as a solicitor conducting litigation? Thirdly, the fact that a solicitor is acting under a CFA and stands to benefit financial from the outcome does not mean he has acted beyond or outside his role as a solicitor. Fourthly, the starting point is that the position of a solicitor funding disbursements is no different from one who is not as both positions are legitimate and meet a legitimate public policy aim. The judge was of the view that, in order to be successful in applying for a non-party costs order there would have to be present either some financial benefit to the solicitor over and above the benefit which he could expect to receive from the CFA or some exercise of control of the litigation over and above that which would be expected from a solicitor acting on behalf of a client (or a combination of both). By way of example the judge suggested that a solicitor’s desire to achieve a successful outcome might cause him to take over the running of the litigation for his own ends. Another example was of a case where the damages claimed were modest in comparison to costs incurred so that the client had lost interest in the proceedings but the solicitor was wedded to them in order to recover his costs. The circumstances of a case might justify the conclusion that a solicitor was making all the decisions for his own benefit. The defendants argued that the claimant’s solicitor had acted improperly, unreasonably or negligently in his conduct of the case. The judge said this was the province of wasted costs (which were not awarded - although pursued in the alternative). He said courts should be astute to keep wasted costs and non-party costs separate. The claimant’s solicitor may have misjudged the case but he came out of the judgment rather well. The judge commented that he was not motivated solely by financial self-interest but with the laudable aim of providing access to justice to the claimant. He thought the claim was genuine and had written a file note stating “the company has been crippled by the defendant tortfeasors and needs assistance.” The judgment draws to a close effectively with a warning against letting financial self-interest get the better of you and an encouragement from a judge to practitioners to be motivated not solely by financial self-interest but by a concern for justice and access to justice. Such a consideration (and file-note for the record!) might well prove worthwhile… Photograph courtesy of freefoto.com

Court of Appeal tightens up on relief from sanctions

Jackson LJ considered case management decisions in his report on costs in civil litigation. He said:-   "...courts at all levels have become too tolerant of delays and non-compliance with orders. In so doing they have lost sight of the damage which the culture of delay and non-compliance is inflicting on the civil justice system. The balance therefore needs to be redressed."  Earlier this year, in Fred Perry v Brands Plaza Trading Limited [EWCA] 2012 Civ 224, the Court of Appeal agreed and applied CPR 3.9 in a way which attempted to redress that balance.   The Defendant had been in breach of a series of orders. Unless orders had been made, the Defendant had not complied and the defence was struck out. The Defendant applied for relief from sanctions. The Court of Appeal reiterated that the interests of the administration of justice - the first item on the CPR 3.9 checklist - requires that parties comply with court orders, and particularly so where the order in question is an Unless order. This is a welcome reminder that the interests of the administration of justice are not necessarily the same as the interests of justice.   The Court of Appeal was critical of the Defendant’s attempt to argue that the Unless should not have been made or was too onerous. It was inappropriate to make a collateral attack on the order in an application for relief from sanctions: if the Defendant did not like the order its remedy was to appeal, which it had not done. The judgment emphasised that the first instance judge has a wide discretion when considering an application for relief from sanctions. The Court of Appeal approved of the judge’s exercise of discretion, and noted that judges who made robust but fair case management decisions should be supported. Lord Justice Jackson was on the panel and made the further point that CPR 3.9 is due to change with effect from 1st April 2013. The familiar checklist is due to be replaced with the following:- "On an application for relief from any sanction imposed for a failure to comply with any rule, practice direction or court order, the court will consider the circumstances of the case, so as to enable it to deal justly with the application including the need – (a) for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost; and (b) to enforce compliance with rules, practice directions and court orders."  Lord Justice Jackson commented that after 1st April 2013, “litigants who substantially disregard court orders or the requirements of the Civil Procedure Rules will receive significantly less indulgence than hitherto”.  

Faking it – lies, fraud exaggeration and abuse of process

In a truly Phyrrhic victory for the Defendant, the Supreme Court has just handed down a judgment overruling Ul-Haq v Shah and Widlake v BAA. In Fairclough Homes v Summers [2012] UKSC 26 the Supreme Court held that it is open to a judge to strike out a fraudulently exaggerated claim on grounds of abuse of process, even after judgment on liability and where it is possible to assess the damages to which the claimant would otherwise be entitled. But the Supreme Court considered that it would only be appropriate to do so in very exceptional circumstances. The circumstances of this case were not exceptional enough and the case should not be struck out.

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What is it about Preston County Court?

The case of R (on the application of Sharing) v Preston County Court [EWHC 515] is perhaps a surprising one to comment on in a personal injury blog. It concerns wrongful eviction, rent arrears and judicial review. However it is of wider interest because the claimant, whose claim for damages was dismissed by the district judge and whose application for permission to appeal to the circuit judge was also refused, successfully had the refusal of permission to appeal quashed in the administrative court and remitted to a different circuit judge. Both this case and the case cited below came from Preston County Court and the circuit judge in concern ended up in the judicial stocks...   The facts of Sharing are, in brief, as follows. The claimant brought a claim for damages for unlawful eviction. The defendant relied upon two witnesses: a WPC and another tenant. At trial he said that the WPC had been served with a witness summons but had said she was unavailable - he was a bit cagy about it when pressed. The other witness was held out to be an independent witness. The trial judge found the independent witness to be essentially truthful and that the claimant had lied about a tenancy deposit. He dismissed the claim finding the police evidence favoured the defendant. The claimant then obtained a statement from the WPC to the effect that she had not received a witness summons, she had been available and that when she interviewed the ‘independent’ witness, she had assumed she was in fact the defendant’s partner because of the way they related to one another. The WPC also provided other evidence which undermined some of the defendant’s case. The claimant then sought permission to appeal on the basis of the WPC’s fresh evidence. That permission was refused and hence an application was made to the Administrative Court for judicial review. Wilkie J was troubled by the way the circuit judge had conducted the hearing saying that, from the transcript, it was apparent that he gave counsel for the claimant an ‘extremely rough ride’. He did not permit her to develop the main point she wished to make and he repeatedly said the case had been won or lost because the district judge had not believed the claimant. He found with great hesitation and regret that the circuit judge acted in such a way that a fair-minded and independent bystander would conclude that he had finally and firmly made up his mind from the outset of the application that he was going to refuse it, that he was going to refuse to admit the fresh evidence of the WPC and his repeated interruptions of counsel and the way he focused on the way in which the district judge had decided the case was the clearest possible evidence of apparent bias. The key case on applying for judicial review of the decision of a circuit judge is R (on the application of Strickson) v Preston County Court & Ors [2007] EWCA Civ 1132. There Laws L.J. said that before JR could be granted a defect much more fundamental than an error of law had to be established. He said ‘I think a distinction may be drawn between a case where the judge simply gets it wrong, even extremely wrong (and wrong on the law, or the facts, or both) and a case where… the judicial process itself has been frustrated or corrupted. This, I think, marks the truly exceptional case.’ He gave a number of examples: the court embarking on an enquiry it lacks all power to deal with, failure to enquire or adjudicate upon a matter which was its unequivocal duty to address, a substantial denial of the right to a fair hearing, a court acting ‘incomplete disregard of its duties’. Photo courtesy of Freefoto.com

What's in a name?

  On 22 March, after 200 years of being called Cadbury, Kraft, the US food conglomerate which bought the Cadbury business in 2010, is changing its name to - Mondelez (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ) International.   The article I read suggests this means delicious world – “monde” coming, I suppose, from the French (or perhaps the Latin) for world and “delez” being a diminutive (or it could be “street” - I would need to check) for delicious. Apparently it is the result of suggestions by two different Kraft employees based in Chicago and Vienna respectively.   I was reminded of this when I read a thoughtful article in the Law Society Gazette on 5 April by District Judge Richard Chapman, the new president of the Association of Her Majesty’s District Judges.   http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/opinion/comment/solicitors-can-help-litigants-person-prepare-their-day-court   Judge Chapman reminds those who did not know that litigants in person are also changing their name - to self-represented litigants or SRLs.   SRLs are likely to feature increasingly in the courts. In November 2011 the Civil Justice Council published a helpful report on “Access to Justice for Litigants in Person”.   http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/advisory-bodies/cjc   This is well worth downloading and filing as it contains amongst other goodies a “nutshell” guide for SRLs and in Appendix 2 “Suggested Draft Guidance for legal professionals representing against a self-represented litigant”   The report points out in the Overview in Chapter 2 that “every informed prediction is that, by reason of the forthcoming reductions and changes in legal aid, the number of self-represented litigants will increase, and on a considerable scale. Such litigants will be the rule rather than the exception” (my emphasis).   This prospect clearly concerns Judge Chapman who says that “judges like me are spending more and more of our time having to deal with litigants who simply do not know the law, have never heard of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 … and have breached most of the case management directions”.   Any advocate is already under a duty to do what they reasonably can to ensure that an SRL has a fair opportunity to prepare and put his or her case. However, the likelihood is that Judge Chapman and other judges at all levels will increasingly be looking for help from lawyers in managing the changes which will follow the new “funding landscape”.    As Judge Chapman ruefully observes:   ”A new name but old problems”.   [Image - thechocolatereview.net]