Justice Department makes late U-turn on how to extend fixed costs | New
The government appears to have significantly altered its plans to implement the recoverable fixed costs extension just weeks before the rules are due to be approved.
Newly released minutes from last month’s Civil Procedure Rules Committee meeting show the government has changed its mind about introducing a separate ‘middle track’ for claims worth between 25 000 and £100,000.
The proposal for a middle way was put forward by Sir Rupert Jackson in his 2017 report which strongly influenced the government’s approach to fixed costs. But despite adopting its recommendations for cases up to £100,000 to be subject to fixed costs, the government’s consultation response said there was no need to introduce a new track. The Justice Department said there was “simplicity and consistency” in maintaining existing lanes and expanding the fast lane to include cases identified by Jackson.
But the CPRC meeting heard that, during the preparations for the expansion, it became clear that some of the perceived practical difficulties of an intermediate route could be overcome. The new lead would be a “very significant change” to the rules of civil procedure, the minutes noted, but the court department was happy with the proposal. Designated civil judges are expected to determine which district judges can hear interim cases.
MoJ research cited in its response to the consultation said that from July 2017 to June 2018 there were 6,000 claims worth less than £100,000 in the multiple track that would be eligible for the middle track.
The intention remains to get final committee approval of the new rules next month, in time for implementation in April 2023. But various policy points remain up in the air, including whether the fixed costs for a particular stage include the costs of the previous stages and the position on the costs. consequences for contributory negligence. Actions against the police except for negligence, it was resolved in principle, will be excluded from the proposed intermediate course.
The Department of Justice has also pledged to review FRC rates regularly in light of rising inflation. Another statement is expected in due course as government officials try to allay lawyers’ concerns that the tariffs will quickly become obsolete.
The Association of Consumer Organisations, which supports claimants’ interests, questioned why major policy changes were still being debated so close to the implementation date.
Executive Director Matthew Maxwell Scott said: “It is right that cross-industry stakeholders have the opportunity to respond to such ambitious proposals, but it is extraordinary and frustrating that after devoting time, effort and energy to detailed submissions, an important piece of consultation was removed at all times with virtually no explanation.
He welcomed the commitment to consider steady inflationary hikes and said inflation had been allowed to “eat away” existing static fixed costs for too long.
“Without a formal adjustment process, consumers seeking redress will be forced to choose between going after giant insurers without representation or losing up to 50% of their compensation due to fee deals with lawyers trying to make ends meet. They also risk a much smaller choice of medical expertise to rely on and fewer lawyers to help present it properly in court.
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