A court ruling that has given claimants something to smile about? That’ll be the Dyson.
Bedtime is a fractious period in the Hyde household, as we attempt to coerce, drag and bribe a three-year-old to his room.
The problem is the little blighter knows we have little to no wriggle room: he can simply sit and wait until we have either broken down in tears or caved in and let him watch another episode of Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures.
What we need is someone who will adjudicate and stand up to this errant child and tell him, in language he will understand, to stop (and excuse the expression) taking the proverbial.
What we need is Lord Dyson, master of the rolls. For he was the judge who this week said enough was enough to defendants who had insisted on standing at the bottom of the stairs and refusing to budge.
In two rolled-up cases both concerning low-value RTA claims, Dyson made PI lawyers smile for the first time in months.
Both claimants had made offers to settle that were so reasonable they turned out to be underestimates. On both occasions the offers were turned down by the defendants, who knew their opponents were hamstrung by fixed fees.
In effect, defendants were empowered to reject a sensible offer because they knew the claimants had a ceiling on how much work they could put into the case.
From conversations with PI lawyers - and this may shock you - I have heard of several defendants attempting to play the system like this. Why agree to settle when the dice are loaded in your favour? Instead many have used fixed fees as a safety net to ensure the claimants’ pips are squeezed harder.
That was, until Dyson’s judgment. In effect, he has told defendants they are welcome to reject Part 36 offers, but once they do, claimants can charge on assessed costs, rather than fixed ones.
Claimants are still bound to make sensible, early offers - to ensure their costs bill is kept in check - but they can fight obvious obstinacy from opponents without both hands tied behind their back.
The Jackson reforms, for all the fury many feel about them, were not designed to penalise claimants. They came as a package, but prior to this ruling some defendants were not using them as they were intended.
Finally, claimants have something to cheer, and any defendants who do try it on will go to bed without a bedtime story.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor