Scotland proposes to protect civil claimants from massive costs

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Jun 05, 2017
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A bill introduced in Holyrood would allow solicitors to offer contingency fees

Jane Barlow/PA

Proposals to protect people from “potentially crippling court costs” in Scottish civil cases have been put forward at Holyrood, Jeremy Watson reports.

The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill, if passed by the Scottish Parliament, will protect those who lose personal injury claims from hefty expenses and make the cost of court action more predictable. It will also enable solicitors to offer a type of contingency fee agreement for the first time, where the amount is calculated as a percentage of the damages recovered and will create a sliding cap mechanism to make costs in such cases more predictable.

The Bill will enable groups of people pursuing the same or similar claims against the same defender or defenders to sue collectively in the civil courts, unlike the current situation where such cases have to be pursued separately. The new law would act on the recommendations of the former sheriff principal James Taylor’s 2013 review of the expenses and funding of civil litigation in Scotland.

Annabelle Ewing, Scotland’s legal affairs minister, said: “We know from Sheriff Principal Taylor’s review that the potential costs involved in civil court action can deter many people from pursuing legal action even where they have a justified claim. That is not acceptable and is something this Bill will address by creating a more accessible, affordable and equitable civil justice system for Scotland.

“This legislation will expand the range of funding options available to pursuers while increasing protection from potentially crippling court costs. It will also, for the first time, allow multi-party actions in the Scottish civil courts, an important reform that will widen access to justice.”

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