Judiciary ‘not ready’ for Jackson Reforms

In an article by John Hyde (Law Society Gazette, 15.04.13) it is reported that a High Court Judge has told parties involved in some clinical negligence claims to ignore the Jackson reforms for at least six months!

A recent practice note to law firms by Master Roberts, one of the two High Court clinical negligence masters, revealed concerns that the courts were not prepared for new costs management rules.

The note said that there had been no pilot of costs management in clinical negligence cases and the Ministry of Justice had failed to appoint a third master, as requested in Jackson’s original report.

The admission is the latest indication that the judiciary was inadequately prepared for changes that came into force on 1st April.

Master Roberts’ practice note said that the two High Court clinical negligence judges (Masters Roberts and Cook) would be “overloaded” with case management hearings if all clinical negligence claims in the High Court were costs-managed, and this would lead to “unacceptable delays”.

Master Roberts said it has been agreed by the High Court’s clinical negligence group that Masters will consider ordering that parties do not exchange costs budgets for at least six months.

This direction will apply to moderately severe or very severe brain damage or injuries involving paralysis.

From 1st April, it was intended that judges would oversee provisional assessments for the first time and make costs-management orders once lawyers had submitted their proposed budget.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office confirmed that the practice direction is still in force.