Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunset this evening (click to enlarge)


Book recommendation: 'Lewis & Buchan: Clinical Negligence'


Written in a clear and concise style, this new 7th edition of this popular and highly respected title has been fully updated to take account of the various important developments in legislation and case law that have occurred since the previous edition. Practical and accessible, it provides practitioners with a structured background to the law. This information is supported by numerous case illustrations, plus a large amount of highly valuable practical guidance on procedure. A 'must-have' title for all practitioners specialising in this complex area of the law. Fully revised and updated to include: * causation in negligence, * human rights and clinical negligence, * damages, * expert evidence, * terms of duty of care, * detention under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, * the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and * the NHS Redress Act 2006.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sponsored blog post: Hip replacement faults could lead to compensation claims


More than 100 hip replacement compensation claims have been launched by patients affected by faults in their replacement joints. The problems are related to the ASR hip replacement joint, which was introduced by medical company DePuy in 2003.  The metallic joint was designed to be fitted to younger patients as it allowed the recipient to keep more healthy bone tissue than a conventional hip replacement.  Some patients who had had a hip replacement began reporting problems such as the loosening of the two halves of the joint.  Other reported side-effects included pain and swelling around the joint and more serious complications like bone damage and blood poisoning. 

DePuy withdrew the ASR hip replacement in 2010, although the firm denied that this was related to the problems reported by recipients. The joints were fitted to tens of thousands of patients in the seven years they were available.  Some medical experts estimate that around 8,000 joints were fitted to people in the UK and Ireland.  Many more were fitted to patients in the United States and elsewhere.  Several lawsuits have already been brought against the company in the US, made by people who have suffered pain and discomfort from their hip replacement joints.  A number of those claiming have also had the added inconvenience of having to undergo corrective surgery to replace their artificial hip joints.

At Camps Solicitors, our claims solicitors can offer a free initial assessment, to find out if you have grounds to make an accident compensation claim.

Neil Worrall

Friday, February 24, 2012

Join the big Faberge Egg Hunt with BabyBarista cartoonist Alex Williams!

This week saw the launch in London of the Faberge Egg Hunt - the world's biggest ever Easter Egg Hunt and BabyBarista cartoonist and top Hollywood animator Alex Williams has designed his very own egg. The event aims to raise funds for two important charities: Action for Children and Elephant Family, inviting tourists, locals and visitors to hunt down the strategically placed giant eggs all over the capital. Alex of course cannot reveal the secret location of his egg, but visitors to London's South Bank near Hungerford Bridge might be searching in the right area. You can see a pdf map of the South Bank eggs here: And if you really get stuck, there's a cheat sheet here. And you can even bid on the eggs too! The auction begins online here. Go on...you know that what you really need is a giant Easter egg in your living room!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Let's have a more grown up debate on the so-called compensation culture

It's all very well David Cameron having yet another go at the so-called compensation culture but the level of debate which ensues really doesn't do anyone justice. Yes, most people know there's a big problem with fraudulent claims and there may well be plenty of others where the word exaggeration is used as  a euphemism for the same thing. But on the other hand to go around suggesting that cases where the speed of impact is less than 15mph should be treated differently to others is starting to veer into the realm of the absurd. Besides the obvious evidential difficulties this would raise, there is also the egg-shell skull principle that every victim should be taken as they are found. Some people are more susceptible than others. That's before you start looking at the other issues it would raise such as different cars having different weights and momentums. It would be a lawyer's field day and a classic example of so much meddling undertaken by the last government where perfectly well-intentioned but ill-thought out legislation ends up having the opposite effect to that which was intended. If you want to tackle fraud then do just that. Don't instead start tinkering with the process of justice which affects us all.

Book recommendation: ' Personal Injury Schedules: Calculating Damages'


The new edition of this text is your authoritative and up-to-date guide to the assessment of damages and presentation of schedules. This book offers practical, expert guidance helping you accurately to assess the value of a claim and decide on what basis to seek damages. It also provides an up-to-date toolkit for best practice in the presentation of schedules and counter-schedules.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Monday, February 20, 2012

Judges should not be involved in assessing barristers' performance

I see that the suggestion that criminal barristers should be given marks by judges is still set to be implemented. Joshua Rozenberg comments on this in The Guardian and I'd like to add my own two pennorth. Without wanting to sound pompous, the need for independent advocates is as important as that of an independent judiciary. Yet the idea that judges who you appear before should have the power to mark your performance completely flies in the face of this principle. By all means employ a few judges to trundle round the courts, sitting at the back and marking advocates independently. But of all the people in the world the very last ones who should be holding sway are those trying the case. This is because advocates need to be fearless in the face of judges and sometimes this means upsetting or irritating the odd judge. Not often you'd hope but nevertheless, the idea that an advocate might start being more cautious simply to keep on the side of the judge so that he might mark them higher is a terrible one. Now, rest assured I'm sure that most if not all advocates wouldn't explicitly go around hedging. But on the other hand, the system should not be setting up disincentives to independence.

Sponsored blog post: Future EU motorcycle safety measures cause protests and debate

Proposals by the European Parliament to fit additional safety measures to new motorcycles have come in for strong criticism from UK bikers after it was claimed the regulations would criminalise those who sought to modify their bikes.  The proposed regulations, says the European Parliament, are designed to make bikes, scooters and mopeds safer and less polluting, but biker groups have criticised what they see as attempts to limit performance-enhancing modifications to their bikes rather than trying to reduce motorcycle accident claims.

Many of the proposals for new motorcycle safety measures have been attacked by bikers who say that the legislation, if it was passed, would effectively criminalise them.  This includes proposals to make the wearing of high-visibility vests compulsory for scooter, moped and motorcycle riders.  Other proposed safety measures, affecting the actual specifications of newly-built bikes sold in the EU would include making anti-lock braking compulsory on motorcycles and requiring scooters and mopeds to be fitted with improved braking. 

One of the most contentious points for bikers has been the idea that limits would be introduced to the modifications they can make to their bikes to enhance performance.  Those working on the proposals, including the British MEP Malcolm Harbour say that there has been confusion between proposals considered in other countries, such as in Ireland and France and the actual regulations that would affect the UK. 

In an article on the Public Service Europe website, Mr Harbour said that the EU had no intention to ban motorcyclists from modifying their bikes and that the intention of future regulations was only to stop dangerous or highly polluting modifications being made to motorcycles.  Even with the reassurances from the European Parliament, several motorcycle groups in the UK have protested at what they see as attempts to place unnecessary restrictions on where, when and how they can enjoy their motorcycles.

For more motorcycle accident claims news, visit the Motorbike Accident Law website.

Neil Worrall

Sponsored blog post: MOJ Portal for EL Claims: A big boot for workers

This month the Government published a response to a recent Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation paper entitled ‘solving disputes in the county courts’. Amongst a variety of other reforms to the civil justice system such  as increasing the small claims track for non personal injury claims to £15,000 the paper concludes that the MOJ Road Traffic Accident (RTA) portal process should be extended to other types of claim such as Employer’s Liability (EL), Public Liability (PL) and Clinical Negligence. Justice secretary Kenneth Clark said of the proposed reforms: “I want to make the system as easy and transparent as possible. These changes will produce a service that helps people to resolve their disputes effectively and in the simplest and quickest way possible so that they can get on with their lives and businesses’.

The original response to the consultation paper which saw the implementation of the MOJ RTA Portal system gave valid reasons for not extending the system beyond the low value RTAs which make up some 70% of claims pursued. Those reasons remain glaring and unchanged. The Government implemented the MOJ RTA Portal system with a primary aim of cutting costs to insurers in an effort to combat the significant rise in motor claims which have more or less doubled within the last 6 years. In contrast, the Compensation Recovery Unit statistics indicate that the number of registered EL cases has actually fallen by half in the last decade.    The so called ‘Compensation Culture’ is a myth.

The reasons for the dramatic fall in the number of registered EL accident claims is undoubtedly the force of the multifarious statutory regulation which directs employers health and safety practices and is enforced by the claimant’s right to sue in cases where breach has resulted in injury. The force of the legislation and the resultant tightening of employer safety practices led to the UK having one of the lowest work injury rates in Europe. This can only be a good thing.    

Instead of proudly publishing the UK record for work injuries David Cameron stated in January of this year that Health and Safety Laws were holding back business and made a pledge to wage war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses’. At the same time to the conference of small businesses in Maidenhead he said that a cap on legal fees for personal injury cases would "deter the speculative health and safety chancers and those who leech off good businesses".

The notion of these ‘chancers’ in Employer’s Liability claims in particular is an utter fantasy. Mr Cameron is hoping to get back to Victorian times before workers fought for the right not to get squashed by unguarded and dangerous machines and made to work with dangerous chemicals and on tall buildings with no safety practices – the good old days when 122 years ago 57 men died building the Forth railway bridge.

The attitude of Mr Cameron and his Government has undoubtedly driven the departure from the original consultation conclusion that the portal system and fixed fees were not suitable for anything other than RTA liability admitted low value claims. 44% of those involved in the current consultation were members of the legal profession; the other 56% was made up of mediators, insurers, businesses, local authorities and even members of the public. In response to the specific question - whether the scheme should be extended was answered by only half those consulted replied and 47% were opposed.    It seems sensible to predict that much of the support was from the insurance and business industry enticed once again by a reduction in Claimant legal fees. Those who opposed the extension of the system pointed out that the significant contrasts between RTA and non RTA matters mean that a portal system simply is not suitable.  The response paper quotes one respondent to the consultation who shred my sentiment “No clear reasoning has been advanced as to what has changed in the complexity of EL/PL cases, or alternatively, in the ability of any scheme to deal with them effectively in light of their complexity”.

It is well established and recognised by anyone with a hand in the profession that even the most standard EL and PL claims are significantly more complicated than the regular RTA.   Compared to RTAs where liability is very often not in issue, EL/PL and clinical negligence cases are often denied and disputed. Instead of being considered and determined on the basis of one explanation of events versus the other (the case in the majority of RTAs), EL cases often turn not on the evidence of the Claimant versus that of the Defendant but on a detailed analysis of the defendant’s training procedures; risk assessments; equipment maintenance records; house keeping records and so on.   

As a result of the effort required to determine their position on liability insurers often fail to respond within the current pre-action protocol time limit of 3 months and 21 days so the idea that they would respond within portal limits, whilst welcome, seems entirely implausible on current experience. There may be a dispute over whether that individual is in fact an employee and even in admitted cases there are frequent arguments over contributory fault or causation which over simplified portal approach unsuitable. To force these matters into a portal process governed by a fixed costs regime which has no bearing on the actual costs incurred will see many smaller firms give up personal injury work altogether and restrict choice and consequently access to justice for the worker.

Laura Morrison.  Laura joined Clear Law Solicitors in 2008 and qualified as a Solicitor in April 2011. Laura specialises in accidents at work and horse riding accidents. She is a keen and experienced horse rider who has competed at national standard in affiliated dressage competitions across the country. Clear Law Solicitors is a Manchester based law firm, specialising in providing legal advice and help with personal injury accident compensation claims and mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) compensation claims.

Jack at Saunton Sands yesterday (click to enlarge)


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book recommendation: 'The Lincoln Lawyer' by Michael Connelly


It's always good to welcome a Michael Connelly novel, and The Lincoln Lawyer is a strong addition to the Connelly bookshelf. This stand-alone legal thriller has all the adroit plotting and no-nonsense prose that are Connelly's trademarks, with a particularly strong protagonist.

In the hierarchy of American lawyers, ‘Lincoln lawyers’ are not held in the highest esteem. These are criminal defence attorneys who run their practices from a travelling Lincoln car, traversing the county of Los Angeles to hoover up whatever work is available, however basic. Connelly's tarnished hero is Mickey Heller, who has fine-tuned this less-than-impressive side of the legal profession to such a degree that few can match him: he knows all the ins and outs of the system, including precisely who to slip a back-hander to when appropriate. But Mickey finds a way to move upmarket when he acquires a well-heeled client. A rich young man from Beverly Hills has been arrested for savagely assaulting a woman, and the case falls in Mickey's lap. And though the lawyer is used to defending clients who are guilty as sin, it actually looks (for once) that his client is innocent. But Lincoln lawyers like Mickey are fully aware of the lottery that is their profession, and he isn't too surprised when the case goes pear-shaped. But (to his dismay) Mickey slowly learns that neither his client nor the victim in the case is quite what they seem to be, and soon there's a lot more than a penny-ante case at stake, with Mickey's life quite as much at risk as any reputation he might have.

Connelly fans (an ever-growing army) will be pleased to hear that all the customary traits are fully on offer here, with one key component even more finely honed than usual: the gritty, idiomatic dialogue, which is richer and more entertaining than usual.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Jackson delayed yet again

The clock has been ticking on implementing the Jackson reforms for a while now and I see that the New Law Journal has reported that it will now be delayed until April 2013. These would impose a 25% cap on uplift fees and potentially add an extra 10% onto damages as well as limiting the recoverability of success fees and after the event insurance premiums. However, despite some being impatient for it all to get started it really does seem eminently sensible to spend a little more time getting the fine details right rather than rushing in and leaving all sides uncertain as to not only where they will stand but also where they will go with the industry afterwards. What with the extent of a referral fees ban to be examined and the like it will be interesting times ahead...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vintage tennis racquet by John Holden of Baker Street



I'm trying to work out when this racquet was made. It was made by John Holden and the address given is 232 Baker Street, London NW1 and seems to be called a 'Super Holden'. There is an advert for John Holden in this magazine from 1906. However, wikipedia makes clear that the numbers were added to postcodes in 1917 so it must be some time from 1917 onwards. But this racquet from circa 1920 looks more advanced and potentially modern.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bringing the profession into disrepute

I've been reading various articles recently which have got me thinking about what it really means when a barrister is accused of "bringing the profession into disrepute". The major problem with it its scope and lack of definition.  Many people might reply that it doesn't need defining since like an elephant you simple know it when you see it. In many cases that may well be the case. But the problem is when the sanctions can be so very serious there is a real possibility of leaving areas completely grey and uncertain until tested. Again, people might say this is necessary to give flexibility in an ever-changing world. But even despite this, surely it would be better to have details provisions as to what to do and what not to do that could be updated as time goes on. Otherwise, there seems to be a serious risk of retrospective law-making. In other words, turning on something in particular because with the benefit of hindsight it fails the test. I guess it really just sticks in the throat that the body which regulates the profession which might be seen as defending the right to a fair trial and all that should at the same time have something so arbitrary as a means of discipline.

The value of silence

I'm just about to go off tomorrow for an 8-day retreat at St Beunos in North Wales (so any posts after that are ones that have been done beforehand and scheduled!) Anyone who knows me will realise that the idea of complete silence will be something which might be somewhat of a challenge. But it makes me reflect far more than that on quite how much noise we have in our everyday lives at present. Whether it's from mobile phones or computers we're now almost permanently plugged into the net. Even when I went on a trek to Everest Base Camp a couple of years ago there was internet access for much of the way there. I remember when I started doing my first cases as a barrister in 1997 that I had to telephone solicitors from a phone box when you were away at court. That soon changed and although a convenience it also meant that you were permanently on call to anyone who might care to ring at any time of the day. There's not really a point to this other than to lament the erosion of silence. Though of course I may well think very differently come the end of the retreat!

The value of jury trials

The trial of Harry Rednapp has caused all sorts of discussion but let one thing be absolutely clear. The jury has decided that he is not guilty and let us celebrate the fact that we live in a society where representatives of the people decide who gets branded a criminal and who doesn't rather than the authoritarian alternative of the state being the ultimately arbiter. I can't think of many things worse. For my part, I hope that Harry now gets the England manager's job if only because it may well make Tottenham Hotspur less of a threat to my own team Manchester City!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book recommendation: 'Uncommon Law' by AP Herbert


First published as an omnibus of AP Herbert's Misleading Cases, Uncommon Law is a quite brilliant collection of his satirical law reports or judgments on various aspects of the British legal and judicial system. These reports, although entirely fictional, were on several occasions mistakenly reported as factual by the British press. The reports often had a sharp political point beneath their satire, and tied into Herbert's personal crusades against obsolescent legislation. As Lord Falconer of Thoroton points out in his foreword, 'There is hardly a work in English literature which captures more accurately and entertainingly the attitudes and approach of the English courts with their vanity, their humour and their strength.'

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Lawyers will be the only winners of the government's reforms

I see that a recent  report from King's College London by Dr Graham Cookson entitled, 'Unintended Consequences: the cost of the Government’s Legal Aid Reforms', shows that the cuts proposed in the coalition's Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill will give rise to unbudgeted costs of at least £139 million. By substantially reducing the scope of Legal Aid in three main areas alone: family law, social welfare and clinical negligence, the Ministry of Justice claims expected savings of £240 million. The KCL report estimates the costs, to this and other Government Departments, to exceed £139 million – which would wipe out almost 60% of the claimed savings.  
The report author, respected academic Dr Graham Cookson said: 'This research undermines the Government's economic rationale for changing the scope of legal aid by casting doubt on their claims of realising savings to the public purse.' He went on, 'Without a trial, it is impossible to say for certain what the impact of the proposals will be, just as it is impossible for the Government to assert that there will be a net saving of £270 million per annum.' But even beyond the unintended costs of perhaps somewhat hasty legislation, there is also the other inevitable unintended cost to all tinkering of this sort: that very clever lawyers will probably spend years taking the new legislation up through the higher courts, comparing it to previous legislation and precedent and in the process of clarifying end up making the whole area even more complicated than ever. Tinkering with the system usually leaves the lawyers as the only winners in the long run.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Government to turn blind eye to asbestos in schools...

Asbestos is a killer and whilst the dangers have been known about for years it was only in 1985 that blue and brown asbestos was finally banned and white asbestos made it through until 1999 before getting the same treatment. Tragically, its prevalence has caused numerous deaths for many years now from, for example, the mesothelioma or asbestosis. Last year the Supreme Court held that Diane Williams had been negligently exposed to asbestos at school which ultimately led to her tragic death from mesothelioma in 2009. In particular the court accepted medical evidence in which it was said that there was no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Yet despite this, The Independent on Sunday has a report that in the forthcoming audit of our 23,000 school buildings around the country, an investigation into the use of asbestos and its risks in these schools is not even going to take place. The implication is that there is a risk that such a survey might give rise to the need to remedy numerous buildings at great cost. Very frightening indeed and it is to be hoped that the government will re-think this important detail.


Friday, February 3, 2012

RJW sold for £53.8m - the floodgates are opening and barristers chambers may be the next to fall...

The Law Gazette has reported that Russel Jones and Walker solicitors along with the Claims Direct claims management brand have been sold to an Australian firm for £53.8m. This comes just a few days after the Financial Times reported that Quindell Portfolio agreed to pay £19.3m for Silverbeck Rymer solicitors. With the move towards alternative business structures now under way this can only be the start of what promises to be a massive consolidation within the legal market, particularly for solicitors firms. What will be interesting to watch is if any firms decide to make any approaches for barristers chambers in the same way. In just the same way that the partners in Goldman Sachs had a one-off windfall when that company was sold so some chambers might be tempted to start hawking themselves around in the hope of a similar type of windfall (albeit on a much small scale). Once that happens, maybe the Inns might start to investigate lease-back arrangements and the like again raising the possibility of windfalls for barristers. Watch this space!

Free Audiobook Download from Audible.co.uk

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book recommendation: 'Facts and Figures 2011/12'


Now in its 16th edition, this collection of tables enables you to effortlessly calculate special damages and claims for loss of earnings in personal injury cases. Facts & Figures 2011/12:

  • Brings together all the information in one volume, to assist you in assessing special damages information quickly, easily and efficiently

  • Provides access to the latest, up-to-date material and includes the 6th edition of the Ogden tables

  • Ensures accuracy in the calculation of special damages and claims for loss of earnings

  • Provides you with up-to-date financial and statistical information

  • Helps with the production of schedules and counter-schedules

  • Widely used across the profession and frequently cited in court

  • Includes: Life, multiplier and discount tables, Earnings tables, Various interest tables, Price tables, Investment tables, Tax and insurance tables, Benefits, allowances and charges, Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority Multipliers Table, Decimal Years Table

  • Provides clearer, easier to use Carer Rates tables, Nanny cost-to-client rates to be re-calculated in accordance with formula used for carer rates and a simplification of Tables C-1 Earnings Losses


Available from Amazon.co.uk