Solicitors claim “partial victory” in fight over owning medical agencies

Maxey: unfair restraint of trade

The government’s delay in pressing ahead with proposals to stop solicitors from owning the medical agencies through which they commission reports in whiplash cases is a “partial victory”, according to a solicitor who has threatened the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) with legal action over the move.

However, James Maxey, managing partner of Express Solicitors in Manchester, said he would revive his plan to bring a judicial review against the government should the issue return to the agenda.

Announcing the way forward on whiplash reform last month, justice minister Lord Faulks said the MoJ remained “committed” to ensuring independence in the commissioning of medical reports, and intended to take it forward as part of the second tranche of reforms, alongside developing proposals for the accreditation of medical experts. Detailed proposals would be published “in due course”, he said.

When the prospect of a ban was first raised, Mr Maxey, along with Michael Jefferies of Jefferies Solicitors, sought to rally support for a possible judicial review.

Mr Maxey said: “We are arranging through the solicitors we have instructed, JMW, to write to [the MoJ] making it clear that we remain opposed to any future change mirroring the one that was suggested, and echoing the transport select committee’s view that further consultation would as a minimum need to be carried out as a precursor to any further proposals for a change around the topic of independence for medical agencies.

“So at this stage, we cannot of course proceed further to fight a non-decision and we are pleased enough with the current outcome in so far as the independence point goes.”

Mr Maxey said the solicitors involved felt “very strongly” that the proposal would be “a completely unfair restraint of trade” that went against the intentions of the Access to Justice Act and the Legal Services Act in creating alternative business structures.

“We therefore consider that, whilst the government haven’t guaranteed that there won’t be a need for a future fight on this, we have influenced the government. Therefore, so far as we are concerned, we feel that this could be chalked up as a minor victory for claimants.”

James Maxey will be on a panel debating the whiplash reforms at PI Futures on 16 September in Manchester. Click here for details.

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