As claimant lawyers face long-feared PI reforms, two judgments come as positive news.
Somewhat overshadowed by the government’s announcement on personal injury reform last week, in the past two weeks we have seen two separate Court of Appeal judgments concerning fixed costs. Both are very positive for claimant lawyers.
In Bird v Acorn, the court ruled that where a case settles after it has dropped out of the portal and been listed for a disposal hearing, it should attract the same fee as if it had been listed for trial – a more favourable result for claimants. The case had been leapfrogged to the Court of Appeal due to the thousands of cases that were stayed until this issue was resolved; and Lord Briggs commented that the overall impact of the decision will be ‘substantial’.
Then we had Qader v Esure and Khan & Anr, which held that PI cases that leave the portal and continue on the multi-track are not subject to fixed costs. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Personal Injuries Bar Association both intervened in the appeal, due its potential significance.
Earlier in the year, the Court of Appeal made another important claimant-friendly decision related to fixed costs, when it ruled in Broadhurst v Tan in February that fixed costs could be trumped by a successful Part 36 offer.
The level of fixed fees may be low, but when it comes to the operation of the fixed costs regime, the appeal court has certainly listened to claimant arguments, in decisions that will have a significant financial impact.
Given the severity of the government’s looming reforms, however, these recent judgments do feel like the proverbial deckchairs on the Titanic.
It is rumoured that the senior judiciary has very serious concerns about the forthcoming PI reforms and the impact these will have on injured people. Sadly, this is one instance where the decisions will be entirely out of the hands of judges.
Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @LawJourno