Change in law for mesothelioma victims as result of judicial review on court fees
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, represented by Rob Weir QC, brought a judicial review claim against the Lord Chancellor in relation to court fees which has led to a change in the law with real benefits for mesothelioma claimants.
The Forum’s complaint was that the requirement to pay up to £10,000 by way of the Court Fee to initiate proceedings breached their rights under Article 6. The Government had recognised that mesothelioma victims as a class would not normally be able to meet this cost. At the same time, the Government had contended that these claimants would be able to rely on the Courts and Tribunals Fee Remissions Order 2013 and would therefore be able either to avoid paying any Court Fee or, at the least, pay only a proportion of the ordinary fee in line with their income.
The problem with the Government’s approach was that mesothelioma victims invariably obtained state payments in the form of an award under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers Compensation) Act 1979 (PWC Act), the 2008 Scheme or the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. The average of these payments for mesothelioma victims was around £13,000. Anyone with over £16,000 of capital automatically fell outside the Fee Remissions order. That meant that, in practice, all mesothelioma victims were fairly bound not to be able to benefit from the Fee Remissions order and would have to meet the substantial court fee themselves (or rely on their solicitors to pay).
The claimant obtained permission to proceed with the judicial review from Blair J and the case was set down for a substantive hearing in July 2015. On 2 July 2015, the Government finally reacted to the judicial review by promising to amend the Fee Remissions Order so that payments made under the PWC Act, the 2008 Scheme and the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme would be excluded from the definition of “excluded capital”. In this way, mesothelioma claimants who, aside from these payments, do not have £16,000 of spare capital will now be entitled to rely on the Fee Remissions scheme. Pending the statutory amendment, the Lord Chancellor will exercise his discretion to treat such awards as excluded capital.
On the basis of this concession, the claim for judicial review has now been withdrawn and the claimant’s costs paid by the Lord Chancellor.
The outcome will make a key difference for mesothelioma claimants, not least those instructing small specialist firms without the funds to pay for their clients’ court fees.
Rob Weir QC acted with Jeremy Hyam and Kate Beattie of 1COR and was instructed by Harminder Bains of Leigh Day.Back to News
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