Leigh Day set to launch lecturer strike claim next week as it eyes Windrush group action

Michalowska: Crowdfunding experiment

Group litigation specialist Leigh Day expects to send the first letter of a claim from a student to a university over the lecturer strike next week.

Solicitor Bozena Michalowska said she was acting for over 200 students wanting to bring compensation claims for lost teaching time, damage to exam preparation and stress caused by the strike.

London law firm Asserson said last week it had more than 1,000 students signed up, which was enough to launch a potential group action. It claimed universities may face bills of £10m each as a result of the strike.

Ms Michalowska, head of product safety and consumer law at Leigh Day, said the claims would be brought mainly under the Consumer Rights Act, as well as for breach of contract.

“They’re consumers, and they need to be treated as consumers and not just children,” she said.

Ms Michalowska said she did not want to name the university which would receive the first letter, but she said domestic and EU students had claims worth around £700 to £1,000, and overseas students £1,200 to £1,500.

One of her clients, Cathy Olphin, a student at Lancaster University, launched a crowdfunding page last week, to try and raise £10,000.

Ms Michalowska said she was talking to litigation funders about the claims, but nothing had been agreed yet.

“We have to figure out which is the best way to bring these claims as efficiently and economically as possible, so the students can keep as much of their compensation as possible.”

She said the priority was to protect the students against having to pay adverse costs and disbursements. She described crowdfunding as an “experiment” to minimise the need for them to lose a large chunk of their compensation in payments to litigation funders or for ATE.

Ms Michalowska said that given the low value of the claims, if the universities decided to fight rather than settle, the students would have to “band together”.

On her CrowdJustice page, Ms Olphin said the cost of tuition at Lancaster University would leave her with “crippling debt” at the end of the course.

“I’m fighting to hold the university authorities to account for their breach of contract with thousands of students. Together we have lost thousands and thousands of hours of expensive teaching time which we have paid for.

“This campaign is not in opposition to striking lecturers. It is in support of students who have borne the brunt of a dispute that could have been resolved and we will be launching similar cases in universities across the country.”

Universities want to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme from a defined benefit scheme, which gives a guaranteed retirement income, to a defined contribution scheme.

Meanwhile, Leigh Day confirmed yesterday that it is preparing a potential group action against the government on behalf of those who fall under the definition of the ‘Windrush generation’, “over the effects of the hostile environment policy devised by the Home Office to implement the provisions of the 2014 Immigration Act, which was put in place whilst Theresa May was home secretary”.

The firm said it was awaiting details of the government’s proposals for a compensation scheme.

The grounds were likely to be that the policies put forward by the Home Office in 2014 were discriminatory and unlawful as they were ‘inhuman and degrading’ and contrary to article 3 (prohibition on torture) and article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Jamie Beagent, a solicitor in the firm’s human rights team, said that any compensation scheme “would need to be robust and fully and fairly compensate every individual for the particular harm and loss that they have suffered including the loss of dignity”.

If not, “we will be bringing a group action, under the Human Rights Act, on behalf of these member of our society who have been treated so badly by a government which sought to make the rest of society hostile toward them”.

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