A thinktank arguing for tough limits on legal claims against hospitals and schools is confident it has the support of the relevant government departments, the Gazette can reveal.
The Social Cost of Litigation, published this week by the Conservative-leaning Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), argues that compensation in the public sector should be separated from tort law. A scheme of no-fault liability would be central to such a change.
Without such a change, the report argues, liabilities could deter private firms and charities from taking over publicly-funded health and education services. The report’s authors, sociologist Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow, say that ‘best practice’ in the NHS has become conflated with ‘litigation avoidance’. They also argue that the low number of clinical negligence damages ‘approved or set by the court’ (3.2%) is evidence that litigation benefits only ‘greedy lawyers’.
Meanwhile, the report alleges that claims in one year for injuries to children amounted to £6.7m. Furedi is critical of teacher unions’ support for injury claims where injury resulted from ‘normal’ activities.
CPS director Tim Knox told the Gazette that in meetings with officials at the education and health departments the thinktank, founded by Margaret Thatcher, felt its proposals were ‘pushing at an open door’.
‘We see the willingness to sue mostly as a cultural issue,’ he said, but added that he could ‘see how one would be less willing to set up a free school, for example’, when asked to take on such liabilities.
Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff responded: ‘What the report fails to take into account is the effect the injury has had on the victim, whether that be a school child who has been injured or someone who has suffered a life-changing disability because of clinical negligence. To deny them the right to seek compensation is denying them the right to access to justice, which is a cornerstone of democracy in England and Wales.’
- Read Ed Reyes' review of the report