Friday, December 30, 2005

EC seeks to foster private actions in antitrust matters...

On 20 December 2005 the European Commission released a Green Paper concerning private actions for damages in the antitrust enforcement context. The Green Paper may be accessed here.

The tone of the Green Paper is unambiguous: The EC is seeking to encourage more private actions for damages in the antitrust context. According to the EC, there are two types of such private actions: (i) 'follow-on', meaning an action that follows a determination of non-compliance by a national competition authority; and (ii) 'stand-alone', meaning there has been no action taken by the national competition authority.

The EC seeks comment on a wide range of issues relating to this matter, including: (i) discovery procedures; (ii) damages issues--including the possibility of double damages; (iii) collective actions in the consumer-harm context; and (iv) coordination of private actions with public actions.

Comments responsive to the Green Paper must be submitted to the EC by no later than 21 April 2006, and should be emailed to: comp-damages-actions@cec.eu.int

Friday, December 23, 2005

Considering mediation in the context of employment disputes

Speechly Bircam senior partner Alan Julyan recently authored this thoughtful article concerning mediation procedures for employment disputes. Julyan claims that the take up of mediation in employment disputes lags behind its use in civil and commercial matters.

Julyan writes in part:

Ignorance of the process, and in particular its effectiveness and cost, is probably still one of the major factors inhibiting the growth of mediation in employment disputes. Although many more people are becoming involved in mediation, the lack of publicity about the successful outcome achieved by mediation obviously inhibits its growth as a means of resolving disputes and does little to dispel some of the ignorance of the process. Employees in particular fear that their employer will use mediation to gain information about their claim, cynically run up costs or, in fact, use the process to bully them into submission, or to use the process in order to demonstrate that it had been tried but have no real desire to resolve the dispute through mediation.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ABI publishes personal injury compensation reform plan

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) just published its reform plan for the U.K.'s personal injury compensation system. You may view the ABI's proposal here (16-page .pdf file)

The highlights of the ABI reform proposal are:

* It would cover personal injury accident claims of GBP 25000 or less;

* A public tariff of general damages;

* A streamlined system that involves mediation as the required first step; and

* Higher penalties for claimants and insurers that abuse the system.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Constitutional Affairs Committee urges small claims court improvements

The Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee (UK) today released a report addressing the issue of access to justice via the small claims courts. The Committee recommends:

* Increasing the upper limit on small claims from £1000 to £2500;

* That the DCA 'urgently implement and monitor measures to improve [small claims] enforcement'; and

* That that DCA 'place greater priority on providing adequate IT facilities which would be much more efficient and provide for a better service to the public.'

Alan Beith, Chair of the Committee, said:

The small claims system is an absolutely essential part of giving ordinary people, who can’t necessarily risk getting involved in a case with huge legal fees, access to justice and a means of redress in this country. That is why it is all the more important that the county courts have the proper facilities they need, and that when someone does get a successful judgement, the means are there to ensure it gets enforced, both for the claimant’s benefit and for the credibility of the system.
Click here for the full report.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Parliament considers the U.K.'s 'compensation culture'

The U.K. Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee will tomorrow receive testimony on the issue of the so-called 'compensation culture'. In particular, the Committee will hear from:

Rt Hon Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Chief Justice;
Judge Peter Hurst, Senior Costs Judge;
District Judge Michael Walker; and
District Judge David Oldham, Association of District Judges

The Committee meeting starts at 4:30 pm (UK) and might be broadcast on the internet. Click here at that time tomorrow to check.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reminder - Costs of Litigation Conference - December 9 in Oxford

It's not too late to register for the Costs of Litigation Conference to be held in Oxford next Friday the 9th of December.

This one-day conference will address the question of whether the litigation system in England and Wales delivers access to justice and value for money. For event details and a programme, click here.

You may also want to review the Civil Justice Council's recent report on Improved Access to Justice (148 page .pdf)

To register for the conference, please email Magdalena Sengayen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Opening the legal professions in Poland...

Legal services, which have so far been very expensive and difficult to obtain in Poland, may become much cheaper and more widely available with the introduction of the new law opening the legal professions! 'Access to justice' may be a more realistic notion for the ordinary Polish citizen with the estimated 100 percent increase in the number of lawyers entitled to offer legal services ('Gazeta Wyborcza, 16.08.05 www.gazeta.pl).

Yesterday the president of Poland signed the Act which will in effect abolish the exclusive control of access to legal professions for law graduates by professional organisations such as the Bar Council or the Council of Solicitors. The legal profession in Poland, consisting most of all of: barristers (adwokaci), legal advisors/solicitors (radcy prawni), judges (sedziowie), notaries (notariusze), prosecutors (prokuratorzy), has so far remained under virtually sole control of these organisations. They organised entry exams, examined candidates, planned and carried out the training for the prospective lawyers, and were in charge of the final exams for accessing the professions.

The main changes introduced by the Act are:
1. Instead of the entrance and the final exam organised by the organisations - a state exam,
2. Possibility of becoming a barrister, a solicitor or a notary without having to go through the formal training by the organisations (only upon passing the final state exam) - using two routes:
i. having performed legal services for five years in an unqualified status, or
ii. having a PhD in law.
3. Possibility of becoming a barrister, a solicitor or a notary without the training and without having to pass the final exam for professors of law and habilitated doctors of law.
4. Possibility of becoming a barrister or a solicitor after qualifying in another legal
profession.


The professional organisations of lawyers have stood firm against these changes, arguing that they will mean decrease in the quality of legal services. The policy of these organisations was however widely criticised (even by the Constitutional Tribunal) as enabling favoritism of family members and simply keeping the numbers of lawyers in the market under strict control for fear of competition. It is this very competition which is hoped to ensure the quality of legal services is not compromised.

For further information about the new Act, the legal profession or the cost of legal services in Poland - please contact magdalena.sengayen@csls.ox.ac.uk

Monday, August 15, 2005

New Regulation of Conditional Fee Agreements - DCA publishes the summary of the responses to Consultation Paper!

The DCA published the summary of responses to the Consultation Paper 'Making Simple CFAs a reality' on 10/08/2005. The summary can be found at the website of the DCA: www.dca.gov.uk.
It appears that extensive changes within the conditional fee regime are imminent. The present regime was found overly complex by all respondents to the Consultation Paper. It also led to numerous technical challenges (for instance: Sharratt v London Central Bus Company Limited and other appeals (the accident Grooup Test Cases), Hollins v Russell and other appeals [2003] ECWA Civ 718). Although some doubts were voiced by the respondents regarding the scope of the changes, one ought to see the transformation of the regime proposed by the DCA as the step in the right direction (towards simplicity and away from technical challenges and confusion). Let us analyse what changes were outlined in the summary:

1. The Conditional Fee Agreement and Collective Conditional Fee Agreement Regulations, now in force, were declared "not necessary or effective". These will be revoked from 1 November 2005 (they will not be applicable to all agreements concluded on or after 1 November 2005).

2. The conditional fee and collective conditional fee agreements shall be governed by a number of legislative mechanisms (some already in force, others to be introduced or amended):
i. Section 27 of Access to Justice Act 1999 - to provide regulatory requirements for CFAs (the Act to be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1999/19990022.htm).
ii. Law Society's professional rules to regulate solicitor-client matters (to be developed).
iii. Civil Procedure Rules to regulate costs issues between the parties.

3. The Law Society, APIL and FOIL are to develop model agreements and supporting guidance in line with the new regime.

The tendency is to simplify and deregulate CFAs, to render the lawyer - client matters the responsibility of the Law Society and its members. One can observe the will to further privatise the CFA system - instead of extenstive regulation, the market forces are to ultimately help determine the quality of the agreements and the protection for clients.

The doubts of the respondents concerned, among others, the ability of the Law Society to effectively control the conduct of solicitors in these matters, or the remaining complexity of Section 58.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Conference on 'Costs of Litigation' in England and Wales!

As part of our research on Costs and Funding of Litigation in Europe and beyond, we are organising a Conference on 'Costs of Litigation in England and Wales'. This Conference is the first in a series of Conferences - stay tuned!

The Conference will take place on 9 December 2005 at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Manor Road, Oxford
Registration 9 am, Start 9.30 am, buffet lunch included, finish 4.30 pm


Issues to be addressed:

Is there a compensation culture in the UK?
Does the litigation system deliver value for money?
Have the Woolf reforms led to a decrease in costs and shorter cases?
How predictable are litigation costs?
Are these features valuable: Legal Aid; the CFA system; fixed fees?
Are costs proportionate to sums recovered?
How many claims are spurious?
Do we have enough, or not enough, access to justice?

The speakers will include judges, lawyers, representatives of the Government and academics.

The exact programme and list of speakers will appear on our blog soon!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Article on Nordic compensation schemes soon to be published!

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Hodges has now completed his very interesting article on the Nordic no-fault compensation schemes. The Article will soon be published. Further details will follow - please stay tuned!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Conference on No-Fault Compensation Schemes in Europe

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford University organised a Conference:
'Nordic No-Fault Compensation Schemes: A solution to unforeseen product injuries throughout Europe?' on 16th March 2005. Speakers included representatives of the Nordic no-fault compensation schemes, representatives of the new French ONIAM scheme, a representative of the British National Health Service, and various other academics and legal practitioners from Europe and the US. Please use the link to the CSLS to obtain more information about the Conference.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Welcome to Product Liability Watch

Check here soon for coverage of product liability developments, brought to you by scholars from the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

Stay tuned...