National firm Slater and Gordon today spoke out against costs recovery outfits on a ‘fishing expeditions’ aimed at trying to discredit the claimant personal injury sector.
The firm, one of a number of practices fighting a plethora of claims about costs deductions, said it was concerned about a ‘growing industry’ targeting their former clients with promises of getting their money back.
The claims have become the biggest issue in the PI sector and it is estimated that thousands of people have expressed an interest in trying to recover their legal costs.
But the courts have started to rule against costs recovery claimants: in March the High Court concluded that a cap on damages amounted to informed consent, while today a costs judge said Slater and Gordon could not be compelled through a Part 18 request to answer questions about alleged commissions received through ATE premiums funded through client damages.
In a sign of firms’ increasingly combative approach, Slater and Gordon issued a lengthy statement addressing not just the ATE issue but the wider fight against costs chasing claims.
A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘Our primary concern in these cases are our former clients – those who are now being targeted (without any basis) by claims recovery firms. These individuals, who are often vulnerable and whom we have supported through a difficult period of their lives, should not have to go through this unnecessarily adversarial and costly process.
‘We have complete confidence in our retainers and our customers are at the centre of everything we do. As a business we are focused on providing clients with the best service possible, which includes being fair, clear and open about our fees.’
Addressing today’s ruling, the firm said there was no legal basis for the Part 18 request and it had a right to challenge requests made in the incorrect forum and on the basis on an ‘unparticularised’ allegation. Claimant representatives have based their allegations on correspondence from administrators handling the affairs of collapsed ATE insurer Elite, which appears to show that a fee was paid to a Slater and Gordon subsidiary. The firm said this correspondence was incorrect and that it would robustly defend any accusation it had not been fair or honest with clients.
The spokesperson added: ‘Our position has been clear throughout, the application made had no merit and was purely a fishing expedition made in the course of a widescale campaign against solicitors’ firms so we are pleased to see that the judge has dismissed it.’