In the Media

MoJ: ?up to solicitors? to police damages

PUBLISHED April 25, 2012

Thursday 26 April 2012 by John Hyde

A Ministry of Justice official has said it will be up to solicitors to police a key aspect of the civil litigation reforms.

Robert Wright, head of civil litigation and funding at the MoJ, admitted last week there is no way for the government to ensure a 10% uplift is applied to all damages settlements. The uplift is a crucial concession to balance the removal of recoverability of after-the-event insurance premiums and success fees from losing defendants.

But with nothing on the statute book, the MoJ will rely on judicial intervention for cases that go to court and on claimant solicitors for the vast majority that settle earlier. Speaking at the APIL conference, Wright said: 'It's up to you as lawyers to know what figure is the right figure and negotiate that with defendants.

'For any injury you will know what you think is the right figure and whether it is x plus 10%.'

Labour MPs and peers have campaigned in parliament for the uplift to be included in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill. During a debate on the bill last week, Paul Goggins, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale, told the Commons that the uplift was 'an estimate and cannot be guaranteed'.

In February, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said discussions about the uplift had been held with the senior judiciary, with further clarification expected this year.

During his speech, Wright - standing in for Djanogly after the minister cancelled his appearance - said it was essential LASPO was adopted in full.

A series of amendments has attempted to make exemptions in a number of areas of civil litigation, with debate ongoing about industrial disease and mesothelioma cases.

Wright said: 'The government believes that in order for the reforms to be effective they must apply to all areas of civil litigation - it can't be right to distinguish between one claim and another.'