Clinical negligence leader sees results from “fast and fair” approach

Flaherty: Firm handling more multi-track claims

The use of “fast and fair resolution” meetings has allowed the law firm that runs more clinical negligence cases than any other to settle a higher-than-average number, with only one of them reaching trial.

While NHS Resolution reported last month that it concluded a record 77% of claims without court proceedings in 2021/22, Southport-based Fletchers said 87% of its 386 cases had settled pre-litigation, including almost half (48%) of cases involving damages of over £100,000.

Alison Flaherty, its head of medical negligence serious injury, said a trial which ended successfully two weeks ago was the first handled by the firm’s medical negligence team for almost two years.

She said Fletchers had pioneered the use of “fast and fair” resolution meetings between partners from the firm and those representing NHS Resolution, which could result in cases being resolved immediately or discontinued before any litigation.

Ms Flaherty said NHS Resolution had rolled out the resolution meetings, aimed mainly at cases worth less than £150,000, to other claimant law firms last year.

There were also ‘stock-take meetings’ with teams of claims handlers after letters of claim had been issued. This kind of meeting, which was trialled from October last year, was also more suitable for smaller claims.

For higher-value cases, an early letter of notification could be used instead of a letter of claim, telling the NHS that quantum and causation were being investigated, which could result in the NHS investigating the case itself and making early admissions on liability.

There were also joint settlement meetings (JSMs) or round table meetings (RTMs) during the litigation process.

Fletchers recently settled three high-value cases using these methods. The first, involving negligent surgery which triggered a stroke, settled for £7m after a JSM nine months before a nine-day quantum trial.

The second, a spinal stroke during back surgery, settled at a RTM for £1.6m two weeks before a five-day liability trial.

The third involved a patient suffering meningitis following negligence at A&E. Liability was agreed at am RTM three weeks before a five-day trial. The case continued on quantum and settled at a JSM a week before a 12-day trial for £13.2m.

Fletchers estimates that costs of £1.5m were saved by avoiding trials in these cases.

Research recently recorded that Fletchers dealt with more clinical negligence cases than any other firm but generated by far the lowest average payout, £41,000.

Ms Flaherty said the number of multi-track cases handled by the law firm in the first half of this year was up by 90%, while the number of cases over £100,000 was twice the figure for the same period in 2019.

She said the firm had increased its marketing efforts, particularly through its Patient Claim Line brand, which now covered serious injuries as well as lower-value work.

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