LAA unveils new approach to high-cost family cases
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is changing the process of handling high-cost family cases following “feedback from representative bodies”.
From 3 June 2019, when a provider notifies the LAA that a care case will be high cost, they will upload signed contract documentation to the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) and apply immediately for a new cost limit of £32,500 via a cost amendment.
An interim care case fee scheme (CCFS) plan will only be required if estimated costs exceed £32,500 at any point before the case concludes.
A final CCFS form must be submitted with the supporting final assessment streamlining tool checklist documentation when the case concludes. This change will apply to both single counsel, QC and two counsel cases.
The LAA said this would allow providers and counsel to seek increased payments on account at an earlier stage against the £32,500 limit, aiding cash flow. It would also reduce the number of interim CCFS form submissions and the number of interactions via CCMS between providers and the LAA.
It added that work was being undertaken to set a higher initial cost limit for QC and two counsel high-cost cases. It aimed to publish this before the end of June.
Delay in accepting part 36 offer “not justified”
The High Court has rejected a claimant’s argument that he was justified in delaying acceptance of a part 36 offer.
In Campbell v Ministry of Defence, the claimant was a member of the armed forces. During a flight to Afghanistan, the aircraft he was travelling in entered into a sharp descent and plummeted 4,400ft due to the pilot’s negligence. The claimant suffered psychiatric injury, specifically a severe phobia of flying. The MoD admitted liability and made a part 36 offer of £100,000, which the claimant only accepted 13 months after the period for acceptance expired.
According to Louis Browne QC of Exchange Chambers – who acted for the MoD – the claimant argued that the offer had been made at a time when his future losses could not be quantified as it was not known at that time that he would be commissioned and promoted. He submitted that if he could not be commissioned because of his phobia of flying then his claim would be worth significantly more than £100,000.
Although no stay had been sought, the claimant said that a stay had effectively been obtained as there had been a delay in the exchange of expert reports until after the commission process had been completed.
Mr Browne – who was instructed by BLM – submitted that there was nothing unusual about a part 36 offer being made before the evidence had been finalised, that there had been no stay as steps in the litigation had continued and that the claimant could have tested the merits of the part 36 offer, for example, by deploying the psychiatric evidence already available to him.
Ruling in favour of the MoD, Mrs Justice Lambert found that there was no reason to depart from the usual costs rule following late acceptance of a part 36 offer.