A pilot adjudication scheme for professional negligence claims has been re-launched with an expanded format a little over a year after it first began, following “insignificant” take up.
The voluntary scheme, which was launched in February 2015 under the supervision of Mr Justice Ramsey, has the backing of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as well as claimant and defendant lawyers and the Association of British Insurers.
The expanded scheme will seek to attract disputes involving claims against a wider range of professional, and dispenses with guidelines suggesting a maximum dispute value of £100,000. Refined scheme rules are now accompanied by detailed guidance notes.
Announcing the relaunch, Mrs Justice Carr and Mr Justice Fraser – the joint chairs of the pilot – pointed out that adjudication in the construction sphere had led to parties having “a decision much faster, and very much cheaper, than they would were they to litigate”.
Katy Manley of Manley Turnbull Solicitors, a founder member and president of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, said that originally the pilot was thought to be “most suitable for claims against solicitors of a relatively modest value”, but that “we haven’t had a take-up of any significance through the initial launch.”
She blamed in part misunderstandings over the £100,000 limit. “One of the reasons we thought there was a disappointing take-up of adjudication… might have been because the previous guidance was regarded as a limit when it in fact it had never been intended to be that.”
She was hopeful the re-launch would improve take-up. “We are trying to encourage as many people as possible to try out and do adjudication as an ADR option. The main message is that we are saying that adjudication may be suitable in a lot of situations – potentially even in most cases.
“Hopefully people will see opportunities where it might save costs and provide a quick solution in a much wider range of situations and cases.”
An invitation-only re-launch event at the end of May, involving claimant lawyers, barristers from the Professional Negligence Bar Association, insurers, judges appointed by the Master of the Rolls, and MoJ officials, showed broad support for the pilot.
In her view this represented “a huge step forward” and was “very significant”. She added: “Hopefully it paves the way for more initiatives like this which can improve claims handling.”