Good news for claimant PI lawyers
Written By - Sam Haynes - April 28,2016
Last week, judgement was finally released, in a case that many Personal Injury Lawyers have been waiting to see published. In Phillips v Willis, Lord Justice Jackson ruled that a district judge ‘did not have the power’ to make an order in April 2014 which transferred the case out of the stage 3 portal procedure and into the small-claims track.
It tackles the question of how the court should deal with low-value Road Traffic Accident claims where the Personal Injury element has been resolved and all that is left is a pretty minor dispute about Credit Hire.
At first instance, the district judge held that because the PI damages had been agreed, the dispute over the remaining financial loss - just £3,486 - was not suitable to stay in the ‘stage 3’ process. Instead, he transferred the claim to the small claims track – and also ordered further evidence to be filed, more court fees to be paid, and listed another hearing.
The appeal was heard by Lord Justice Jackson, who found the DJ’s actions to be ‘irrational’. Commenting on the ‘elaborate’ directions given by the DJ, Jackson said: ‘I dread to think what all that would have cost, but that was not the end of the matter. Both parties would need to instruct representatives to attend the further hearing. They would also have to write off the costs of the April 2014 hearing.
‘At the end of all that, the winning party would recover virtually no costs, because the case was now proceeding on the small-claims track.
‘In my view, the district judge’s decision taken on 9 April 2014 that further evidence was necessary to resolve the outstanding dispute between the parties was irrational. The district judge was not entitled to reach that conclusion.’
According to Ghazala Bashey, a Lawyer at claimant firm Winn, which brought the appeal in this case, County Courts have been routinely transferring cases like this onto the small-claims track.
But quite apart from the obvious costs benefit for claimant Lawyers, surely keeping things in the portal is far more efficient, and sees claims resolved more swiftly. Claimant Lawyers would argue that it also avoids giving defendants a second bite of the cherry to raise new issues that were not mentioned during the portal stage.
All in all, this is certainly good news for claimant representatives and their clients.