Jones CFA assignment case not heading to Court of Appeal

Gibson: virtually all cases concluded

Gibson: virtually all cases concluded

The recent high-profile ruling on the assignment of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) will not be going to the Court of Appeal after all, it has emerged.

Simon Gibson, managing partner of SGI Legal, which acted for the claimant in Jones v Spire Healthcare, said he had received notification that the defendant did not intend to appeal.

“It was a well-reasoned judgment in an evolving area of law,” Mr Gibson said. “We are content with the outcome of the matter.”

The case concerned the validity of a CFA assigned by insolvent firm Barnetts to SGI Legal, which bought the Southport firm’s personal injury book when it went under.

Though in his ruling HHJ Graham Wood QC speculated that SGI could lose out “substantially” if it was unable to recover costs as a result of his ruling, Mr Gibson said that “virtually all” of the cases it had acquired had now concluded, meaning there was no further fallout for the firm.

Though Jones will not be going to the Court of Appeal, it is widely expected that the issue will be considered there sooner or later. The underlying debate is whether the High Court ruling of Mrs Justice Rafferty (as she then was) in Jenkins v Young Brothers Transport Ltd [2006] EWHC 151, by which HHJ Wood considered he was bound, was correct.

There are other cases on CFA assignment in the system. One that may be heading to the Court of Appeal is Budana v Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Here District Judge Besford in Kingston Upon Hull County Court held that the CFA was not validly assigned, as the agreement had been terminated prior to the assignment when the original firm closed its personal injury practice.

The defendant has asked for the case to be leapfrogged to the Court of Appeal, and a decision is awaited.

Writing to its clients ahead of the introduction of LASPO, Baker Rees said: “In light of the impending reforms, we have decided to stop handling personal injury litigation. When making this decision we were concerned to make sure that our existing clients were properly protected. To this end, we have put in place a process to transfer your case to a firm of solicitors (Neil Hudgell) who are specialists in personal injury litigation and who intend to continue this type of work.”

DJ Besford said: “In my judgment the letter is unambiguous. BR had ceased to handle personal injury litigation. There was no offer or suggestion that they would continue to act pending her instructions or even that they would give a reasonable amount of time for the claimant to consider the position before ceasing to act.

“In my judgment BR had taken a decision to cease to handle personal injury litigation, probably prior to the letter being sent out. The retainer had been terminated by BR. I entirely accept… that there was no CFA to transfer as of 25 March 2013.”

The judge held that he too was bound by Jenkins, although he saw “much force” in the criticisms of it made by the defendant’s counsel, Roger Mallalieu.

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