Widening access to justice
Civil Litigation Bill introduced.
Legislation to make civil justice more affordable and accessible for all has today (Friday June 2nd) been published in the Scottish Parliament.
The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill, if passed by Parliament, will:
- make the cost of court action more predictable at the outset
- for the first time allow solicitors, as well as claims management companies, to offer damages based agreements which are a form of ‘no win, no fee’ agreement where the fee is calculated as a percentage of the damages recovered
- introduce a sliding cap mechanism to make the legal fees in such cases more predictable
- protect people from facing a large expenses bill if they do not win personal injury claims
- enable groups of people to sue in the civil courts where they have the same or a similar claim against the same defender or defenders. Under current Scots law, such cases have to be pursued separately
Minister for Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing 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.”
Former Sheriff Principal James Taylor welcomed the Bill which will implement those recommendations of his 2013 Review of the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland which require primary legislation.
He said: "The proposals address some concerns which may cause people not to exercise their legal rights and ultimately their right to go to court. The fear of having to pay their own solicitor and also the legal costs of their opponents can be a significant deterrent. This Bill provides for the setting of a straightforward formula, in personal injury and other civil cases, to enable a client to work out what his or her own lawyers can charge. It also removes the risk of having to pay their opponent's costs in personal injury cases, provided they have acted properly."
The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill provides the legal framework to implement a number of key recommendations of Sheriff Principal James Taylor’s Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland.
The legislation will additionally:
- Introduce qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) for personal injury cases and appeals, including clinical negligence, whereby a pursuer will generally not be liable for the costs of a defender if the action is unsuccessful. It specifies the circumstances when the benefit of QOCS would not apply
- enable the Auditor of the Court of Session and Sheriff Court auditors to become salaried posts within the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service
You can view the Bill and read its accompanying documents on the Parliament website here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/104998.aspx