By Legal Futures’ Associates ARAG
Regional law firm Dutton Gregory Solicitors has highlighted the importance of conditional fee agreements in clinical negligence cases, after its award-winning Head of Clinical Negligence, Carol Maunder secured a £9 million settlement for a child who sustained their life-changing injuries over a decade ago.
The case was initially funded by Legal Aid, but was transferred onto a conditional fee agreement because the Legal Aid Agency would only allow limited costs in which to investigate the claim. These were insufficient to see the case through to settlement and so it was necessary to switch to a CFA.
Even though a Fitness to Practice hearing conducted by the General Medical Council resulted in the obstetrician being struck off the medical register for the serious failings in this and a number of other cases, the defendant disputed causation and continued to defend the case throughout.
“It is no secret that legal aid budgets have been decimated in recent years,” comments Carol Maunder, the Partner at Dutton Gregory Solicitors who handled the case. “This makes it increasingly difficult to successfully pursue a clinical negligence claim without a conditional fee agreement.
This case provides yet another example of a family that would not have been able to afford the level of care and support their child will always need, if we had not been able to pursue the case under a CFA with after-the-event insurance to protect them from
the costs risks.”
Liability in the case was ultimately agreed at 70 per cent of the total value of £13 million, but only after proceedings had been issued against the defendant. The claimant had to call upon the evidence of a number of expert witnesses.
Mike Knight, ARAG’s UK Sales Manager for after-the-event insurance added, “We have seen significant challenges, over the past few years, from defendants who have objected to the transfer of cases from legal aid onto a CFA.”
This difficult case highlights, as well as any other could, why the use of CFAs in clinical negligence cases has to be protected, and why we have robustly defended the transfer of claims from legal aid, where it no longer offers injury victims the access to justice that they so desperately need.”