The first known court actions against law firms for alleged undersettlement of sick coal miners’ government compensation claims will begin preliminary hearings in mid-August, the Gazette has learned. A number of defendant firms have already settled out of court.
Oldham County Court is due to hold case management hearings for around 18 undersettlement cases next month, according to Robert Godfrey, legal executive at Oldham firm Mellor Hargreaves.
The claimants allege that their solicitor failed to obtain the full amount of compensation owed to them under the government’s coal health compensation scheme, the largest personal injury compensation scheme ever devised.
Mellor Hargreaves filed claims against 11 law firms earlier in the year. Godfrey said that, of the 11 firms named in the original claims, four have settled cases out of court and paid money to the claimant. He said Mellor Hargreaves intends to launch another 20 to 30 undersettlement court actions by the end of August.
Manchester firm Pannone confirmed that it has settled one case with Mellor Hargreaves but said it could not give precise details. It is understood that Pannone did not admit liability.
According to Godfrey, Mellor Hargreaves has also settled one case with Salford firm Branton Edwards (since taken over by Eccles firm Calibre and now trading as Manchester firm Legal Gateway); and one case with Warrington firm Avalon. In each of these cases, liability was not admitted, Godfrey said. Neither firm responded to requests for comment.
Godfrey said that Mellor Hargreaves has settled four cases with Braintree and Halstead firm Holmes & Hills, which admitted breach of duty and paid money to the claimants. Holmes & Hills declined to comment.