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    Thursday, 14 January 2010

    Lord Justice Jackson reports on costs review

    Lord Justice Jackson has published a series of recommendations for reform of costs and civil process rules following a lengthy review of civil litigation costs. Mr Justice Ross Cranston, a visiting Professor in the LSE Law Dept, acted as one of a number of assessors on the review.

    The package of reforms is intended to secure access to justice and reduce litigation costs. For example, it suggests that success fees and ATE insurance premiums should no longer be recoverable in conditional fee agreement (CFA) cases; that the general level of damages should be increased by 10% so as to offset the increase risk borne by claimants; a change in cost allocation rules as between the winners and losers in civil actions (claimants would not have to carry the defendant's costs if they lost, whereas defendants would have to carry the claimant's costs if they lost); allowing contingency fee agreements (which would permit lawyers to take up to 25% of damage awards), and establishing a costs council to review basic costs levels on an annual basis. The report also mooted whether there should be an end to jury trials in libel cases.

    Clearly, this all speaks directly to the much-expressed concerns regarding the 'chilling effect' of libel law on journalism in the UK and beyond. Costs have been the key factor in the campaign for libel reform pursued by a number of newspapers and free speech NGOs. Lord Justice Jackson's report makes specific recommendations with respect to libel proceedings (see Ch 32).

    There is a lot here to digest. There has to be a fear, however, that the uncertainty that would be created by changes such as those on costs allocation would be likely to militate against some potential claimants taking the risk of launching actions (1). It may also be that few lawyers would happily assume the risk of bringing actions where clients are relatively impecunious.

    2 comments:

    Video Maker said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Video Maker said...

    Re Lord Justice Jackson's report - I am currently in the fourth year of a compensation battle following severe injury to my wife whilst in the employ of local government. Despite full negligence admitted within the three month allotted period following the incident, we have been embroiled in a highly complex web of legalities, and assessments etc for so long, my wife's condition has deteriorated significantly. Despite many cries for system reform from many quarters over many years - almost nothing has changed by way of improvement from the claimant's position. During our case, we have suffered just about every conceivable problem from the ambulance driver that couldn’t remember the way into the hospital, through grossly inaccurate accident (RIDDOR) report forms to a solicitor needing to be changed to rescue the case. We have experienced so many issues that we feel would be valuable to others that I am in the process of completing a help-book on the subject. Dear Lord Jackson, there are many aspects of the present very sorry compensation system that need changing - the legal gravy-train being just one. Please though, could we address one major issue first - that of ending the present adversarial process. Currently, it is accepted practice for the defendant, completely irrespective of culpability, to deny any responsibility for as long as possible - in the hope presumably that the claimant may run out of money, give up from frustration or better still drop dead from the effects of their injuries - before any meaningful claim can be mounted. As mentioned above, there are many issues that need looking at including the use of unregulated so called 'claims managers' by government authorities. One particular company in this field provides a number of related services including insurance, health & safety consultancy, claims management and medical rehabilitation. In other words, they benefit from tax-payers money whatever the outcome. Perhaps, I'll send Lord Jackson a copy of my book written from the 'coal-face' - who knows he might just read it!

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