Rule committee warned government over clin neg fixed fee timetable

Birss: Timetable “particularly ambitious”

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) warned the government in July about the difficulty of meeting the timetable for the new regime of fixed costs in low-value clinical negligence cases, it has emerged.

Newly published minutes from the CPRC’s July meeting recorded that its chair, Lord Justice Birss, the deputy head of civil justice, observed that the proposed timescale of finalising anticipated amendments by its December meeting – ahead of implementation next April – was “particularly ambitious”.

“It was inevitable that drafting would need to pass through various iterations before being settled and committee resources were currently limited,” the minutes said.

Legal Futures understands that the committee’s position has not shifted since. This raises the prospect of either the rules being released shortly before implementation – giving practitioners little time to prepare – or a delay in the start date.

Neither would be unprecedented in the recent history of costs reform. This month’s extension of fixed recoverable costs, which itself was twice delayed, saw the CPRC take the unusual step of publishing the rules in draft in April to give the profession time to prepare. They were finalised six weeks later.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced last month that fixed recoverable costs for clinical negligence claims that settle pre-issue for up to £25,000 would come into force next April, provoking anger from claimant representatives.

The minutes said that, in discussion, members reiterated that the “challenging” nature of the timetable.

“Overall, it was considered sensible that the scheme is to be limited to pre-action, but Mr Marshall [solicitor representative David Marshall] urged officials to also consider cases that do not settle pre-action.

“It was highlighted that there has been much change since the CJC’s original work in 2019 [the Civil Justice Council report on which the regime is based] and the chair drew out the need to carefully consider the interaction with mediation (early neutral evaluation) within the proposals.”

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