Consultation 09.09

Review of civil Litigation Costs

Ref: 09.09

The above preliminary report on civil litigation launches the consultation phase of Lord Justice Jackson’s fundamental review of the current cost system and sets out the results of a four-month information gathering exercise. His final report and recommendations are due to be published by the end of this year.

Lord Justice Jackson’s preliminary report on civil litigation costs asks fundamental questions about who should pay the legal costs when disputes are taken to court in England and Wales and how those costs can be controlled.

Lord Jackson was appointed in November 2008 to carry out an independent review of the current costs regime and to make recommendations to promote access to justice at proportionate cost. This paper, published on 8th May, marks the end of the first stage of that review

Commenting on the task before him, Lord Jackson said: “The issue of costs is one which generates deeply held and fundamentally opposed opinions. It is an issue of public importance and one which touches upon a number of vested interests.

The report floats a series of possible reforms, including: fixed costs for many more cases than now, a benchmark or tariff of costs; contingency fees or a “contingency legal aid fund” paid for through a slice of each winning claimaint’s damages; and an overhaul of no win, no fee cases involving capping the “success” fees charged by lawyers.

In particular, Lord Justice Jackson calls for a review of the “sacred cow” principle in UK litigation that the loser pays; and that damages won in personal injury cases are “sacrosanct” and people should never have to pay any costs out of them.

The 200-year old “loser pays” principle is aimed at deterring unmeritorious claimaints. But it does not apply to all disputes, the report notes: for instance in tribunals each side bears its own costs.

The report also supports ILEX’s recent submissions urging a rethink of the government’s policy of making the courts self-financing. His report says that court fees now account for about 80 per cent of the £650 million a year cost of running the civil and family courts in England and Wales.

Comments on the report are invited by July 31st.

The report can be accessed on this link:

Posted 21 .05.09