Two Manchester personal injury firms are seeking support for a legal challenge to the Ministry of Justice’s proposal that will stop solicitors from owning the medical agencies through which they commission reports in whiplash cases.
Express Solicitors and Jefferies Solicitors are contacting other claimant PI lawyers to see if there is interest in pooling resources to instruct counsel with a view to contesting the plan set out in a letter from justice minister Lord Faulks earlier this month.
They argue that the move would be an unreasonable restraint of trade. James Maxey, managing partner of Express Solicitors, said: “Solicitors are not precluded from owning non-solicitor businesses and why should they be in these circumstances?”
The Ministry of Justice letter said it was “committed to ensuring that there should not be a financial link between the party commissioning the medical report and any intermediary organisation through which the report is provided (or indeed with the medical examiner), other than for payment of the examination/report”.
It is therefore proposing, as a preliminary measure, to prohibit either party having a financial interest in an intermediary through which a medical report is obtained.
Mr Maxey said: “I’m an owner of Express Solicitors and also an owner of Ontime Group, which provides outsourcing services for claimant PI firms, including cost lawyers, investigations and a medical agency. Unsurprisingly, the medical agency does the vast majority of my firm’s work, as well as working for other, quality claimant PI practices.
“We want to connect to other professionals, who are partners/owners in a legal practice and also involved in the ownership of a medico-legal agency or using some form of white-labelling for medical reports, who will see these new proposals as a significant issue.
“This appears to be another pre-decided outcome on behalf of the Ministry of Justice… Is it me or have the government decided that claimant personal injury lawyers are criminals?”
Mr Maxey argued that independence issues were already addressed by solicitors’ code of conduct and the Civil Procedure Rules in this regard. “The last people trying to undermine the experts’ independence are in fact the claimant’s solicitors,” he said.
The aim is to arrange a meeting of interested solicitors and then, if there is support, to instruct counsel. To contact Mr Maxey, e-mail him via his colleague, Emma Bates: firstname.lastname@example.org