The Court of Appeal has refused to hear a £71m claim against trade union firm Thompsons Solicitors brought by a collapsed rival.

Liquidated firm Greene, Wood and McLean LLP had failed in 2006 with proceedings against Thompsons after an attempted group litigation order was rejected by the High Court. 

The decision not to allow the order to proceed was unsuccessfully challenged in the High Court before GWL took the case on to the Court of Appeal. But the court rejected its claims that a judge had conspired with defendants to undermine the case and refused permission for the appeal to continue.

GWM had previously sought to represent miners who wanted to bring proceedings against their former solicitors, claims-handlers and trade unions for making allegedly wrongful deductions from their compensation.

Individually the sums were believed to be small and not worth the expense of litigation, but GWM wanted to obtain the group order in order for a large number of miners to become parties.

Sir Michael Turner, judicial administrator of the British Coal Respiratory Disease Litigation scheme which oversaw compensation claims, dismissed GWM’s claims in ‘robust terms’ in 2006 and awarded costs against the claimants.

His judgment identified a ‘gross imbalance’ between costs incurred and the sums likely to be recovered, and stated that no group litigation issue had been sufficiently or precisely identified.

In a challenge to that ruling, David Jackson, assignee of GWM, argued in the High Court that the group litigation order and subsequent avoidance of after-the-event insurance cover ‘effectively destroyed’ the firm’s business.

Jackson sought £71m as damages for conspiracy and other torts against Thompsons. The claimant alleged that Sir Michael had been, or appeared to have been, biased against GWM and its clients and for that reason had dismissed the application for a group litigation order.

He also alleged that Thompsons and other firms named as defendants in the original claim had ‘conspired among themselves and with others to procure the appointment of a judge who was, or appeared to be, biased in their favour’.

After a 25-day trial, the judge dismissed the claim, rejecting any case over bias or conspiracy.

GWM sought to appeal in January, but the application was yesterday dismissed in the appeal court by Lord Justice Moore-Bick (pictured) in Jackson v Thompsons Solicitors (a firm) & Ors.

He ruled that GWM had to prove a causative link between any established bias and the loss which the firm sought to recover. Moore-Bick said the claimant had been unable to point to anything said or done by Sir Michael during the three days of the 2006 hearing, or to anything said in his judgment, which showed evidence of bias.

Sir Michael, he went on, had ‘powerful reasons’ for refusing the group litigation order and it did not follow that any other judge would have come to a different conclusion.

Stephen Cavalier, chief executive of Thompsons Solicitors said: ‘The High Court dismissed every claim brought against the firm by Mr Jackson. We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has now dismissed his application for permission to appeal from that judgment and brought this case to an end.

‘This was at its heart a case without merit brought in the hope that Thompsons might settle. The judgment vindicates our decision to fight the claim in its entirety at every stage and we welcome that the Court of Appeal has concluded that “an appeal in this case would have no real prospect of success”.’

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