Litigators given deadline to issue and avoid new fixed costs

Fixed costs: More leeway for PI lawyers

Civil litigators will have until 29 September to issue claims if they want to avoid the new fixed recoverable costs (FRC) regime, it emerged yesterday.

However, personal injury (PI) lawyers will not be similarly affected by the implementation date of 1 October, a Sunday.

The newly published minutes of the February meeting of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee confirmed that the new FRC – for most money cases worth up to £100,000 – will apply where proceedings are issued on or after 1 October.

But for PI, they will apply where the cause of action accrues on or after 1 October, and will only apply to disease claims where the letter of claim has not been sent to the defendant before that date.

Mesothelioma/asbestos, complex PI, professional negligence, actions against the police and child sexual abuse cases were always going to be excluded from FRCs, while this year the Ministry of Justice has added child neglect and physical abuse cases (also against vulnerable adults) to the list and delayed the application of FRCs to housing cases for two years.

The minutes recorded that the Police Action Lawyers Group and campaign group Inquest had written to the committee to argued that the proposed exclusion for claims against the police should encompass public authorities more widely.

“The points garnered some general sympathy, particularly where custodial services were concerned,” they said.

“However, the matter had been considered previously and it was difficult to draft for all variations. Nonetheless, the points have been referred to the sub-committee to review and consider with care.”

The minutes shed no light on when the new rules would be published, although final amendments were due to be considered at the most recent committee meeting at the end of last month.

A briefing issued by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations said: “Concerns remain that until we get some more clarity on what types of cases should go in to which bands and which cases may or may not be ‘exceptional’ or excluded, then it will just be the Wild West on 1 October, which will only lead to protracted pre-action disputes, increased satellite litigation and ultimately it will be the consumer that loses out through delays as we have seen with hybrid injury claims.

“If firms do not have a good level of assurance as to what fixed costs certain claims will attract, they cannot plan in respect of case numbers, experience of fee-earner and whether it remains economically viable for them to continue to service such claims.”

The exclusion of neglect and physical abuse against children followed lobbying by the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

David Greenwood, a director at Yorkshire firm Switalskis who led the association’s work, said: “Much child abuse is not sexual but neglect and physical abuse can be just as psychologically damaging.”

The Ministry of Justice said in February that the housing delay was so that FRC could align with “wider reforms in the housing sector”.

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