The High Court has given hope to Speed Medical’s bid to bring a judicial review of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) approach to MedCo, after agreeing to an oral hearing following a decision to refuse permission that had been made on the papers, Litigation Futures can report.
On Tuesday Mrs Justice McGowan ordered Speed’s case to proceed to a hearing “despite the MoJ’s opposition”, the company said.
As we reported last month, Mr Justice Leggatt had refused to grant Speed permission to bring a judicial review of the decision taken by the MoJ that of the seven medical reporting organisations (MROs) should be presented to a solicitor from a search on MedCo, only one is a ‘tier 1’ provider, meaning it is a high-volume national MRO, like Speed.
Speed argued that through a late response to the letter before action, the MoJ had not provided any opportunity for Speed to consider or respond to the government’s position or defence prior to Leggatt J’s decision.
The Chorley-based MRO renewed its application for an oral hearing and it reported that “after over an hour of submissions, Mrs Justice McGowan felt that the complexity of the points raised justified a substantive hearing at which all the issues could be presented and fully considered”.
Speed said it is working to secure “the earliest possible court date” for what will be a rolled-up hearing dealing with permission and, if successful, the substantive claim.
In a statement, it said: “Whilst Speed supports the intention of the MoJ to break the financial links between solicitors and experts, and Speed also supports the accreditation of experts, Speed believes that the present system of allocation of MROs is unnecessary and ineffective in achieving these aims, and that it is anti-competitive.
“Speed had approached the MoJ prior to the hearing yesterday with a request that the parties agree to a substantive hearing. The MoJ refused and argued against our request in court. So far, the MoJ has shown no signs of being willing to consider our position or to work together to resolve the issues.
“Unfortunately, whilst the current MedCo system remains in place, the absence of competition will remove service innovation from the market to the detriment of the consumer.”
An MoJ spokesman said: “The court has not given this case permission to proceed, but has instead deferred that decision for a later date. We will continue to robustly defend this and any other legal challenges.
“We want to see the cost of insurance premiums come down for working people – motorists should not continue to bear the cost of a system that has been open to abuse.
“The improved system for medical evidence system makes sure that genuine whiplash claims can be settled but those without merit are stopped.”
In the meantime Speed is one of the tier 1 MROs to create 10 tier 2 agencies to increase its chances of instructions. We reported last week that the government has called on MedCo to stamp out practices such as this.
This article was amended to clarify that permission to bring the JR had not been been granted by McGowan J