Slater and Gordon: Battling against cost chasing claims in the personal injury sector

August 24, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Slater and Gordon has expressed increasing concern over the considerable growth in the number of former personal injury clients chasing the recovery of legal costs.

What does this mean?

At the centre of these cost chasing claims, claimants have been raising questions over ATE (After the Event) insurance policies. In March 2021, it was reported that Slater and Gordon, among other firms, were faced with over 100 claims which were questioning whether the firm was profiting secretly from ATE insurance contained within retainers signed by clients.

Recently considered in Raubenheimer v Slater & Gordon, a claimant brought a claim on the basis that Slater and Gordon had “breached its fiduciary duty not to make a secret profit from its role as a fiduciary.” They sought to compel Slater & Gordon to provide greater information on the matter under a Part 18 application. Whilst unsuccessful on the Part 18 application itself, Judge Rowley did consider the claimant “to have sufficient evidence…to bring separate proceedings” for Slater and Gordon to explain “why the claimant is wrong,” considering they had “not answered the question in these proceedings.”

What's the big picture effect?

Although this was a temporary triumph for Slater and Gordon, one cannot ignore the fact that the door has been left open by Judge Rowley for further questioning opportunities via separate proceedings, for matters concerning cost claims in the personal injury sector.

Whilst a spokesperson for Slater and Gordon asserted: “we have complete confidence in our retainers and…we are focused on providing clients with the best service possible, which includes being fair, clear and open about our fees,” the public statement did express concern for the wider issues at play. It not only recognised that its former clients “are now being targeted (without any basis) by claims recovery firms” to pursue applications without merit, but also emphasised that these cost chasing claims are really just a “fishing expedition…against solicitors’ firms.” Even so, how accurate are such assertions by Slater and Gordon?

Following the Raubenheimer case, founder of the costs recovery firm Mark Carlisle, considers that “it is merely a question of forum” as to how one can pursue these claims in the future. Thus, suggesting it is simply a matter of logistics, before addressing this issue once more and questioning the approaches of firms towards costs in the personal injury sector. Furthermore, Deputy News Editor of The Law Society Gazette, John Hyde, considers that clarification upon these cost chasing claims may reside in the outcome of the appeal for Belsner v CAM. Claiming that this case could be the key turning point to “either kill off this burgeoning industry of clawing back costs, or breathe new life into it,” it is certainly a case development to keep an eye out for.

Ultimately, clarification upon the future of cost claims in the personal injury sector is pending. Whilst it remains to be seen in whose favour the decisions will reside, it is likely to impact the approaches towards costs and the wider personal injury sector greatly.

Report written by Karolina Smolicz 

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