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Friday, 14 November 2014

Phillips v Francis - landlords breathe a sigh of relief!

It's business as usual for landlords and managing agents following the Court of Appeal decision in Phillips v Francis at the end of October. The decision was seen to be of such import and the outcome of such significant effect on residential landlords and tenants that the Secretary of State intervened in the appeal process. Thankfully and sensibly the appellate judges decided that the decision of the High Court to impose an aggregating approach on works to residential properties was incorrect.

A Rising Tide of Litigants in Person Threatens Courts’ Abilities to Offer Access to Justice

The Government’s efforts to cut the budget deficit have meant that legal aid has been slashed along with many other areas of public spending. Legal aid was costing taxpayers £2 billion per year and it was seen as a necessary target for cuts but many professionals believe that the government has failed to reform the system in turn.

Despite being regarded as superior to other European systems, the English legal system has struggled since the budget cuts came into force with many barristers in particular describing it as ‘unsustainable’. Court fees have also increased to such an extent that many ordinary people simply cannot proceed with claims. For example, claiming against a former employer can now cost £1,200 in court fees alone, a figure which some observers believe explains the 70% fall in these types of employment cases in the last year.

Family law is one area in particular where individuals are increasingly tempted to go it alone. However, specialist advice is always a better solution as this area of law is particularly complex and short term savings can come at a long term cost, whether they relate to child custody proceedings or financial settlements in divorce.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

IPs Feel the Heat Over Mass Redundancies in Insolvency

The recent redundancy claims against high-street electrical retailer Comet have highlighted the issues faced by administrators making mass redundancies in insolvency. The case has also heightened political pressure on insolvency practitioners to ensure that their duties relating to employment law are properly conformed to during insolvency processes. The fallout means that, as well as facing reprimands from the regulator and financial penalties, IPs have seen the threat of criminal sanctions heightened if they get it wrong.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Financial Expertise Trumps Legal Knowledge for Directors

PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ auditing firms, found in its 2014 annual survey of directors that only 21% of respondents believed having ‘legal expertise’ was ‘very important’ to them. Notably, directors see the need to have financial expertise as a top priority, with 93% of respondents regarding it as ‘very important’. Also sitting above legal knowledge in terms of relative importance was expertise in other areas such as human resources, racial diversity, marketing and gender diversity.

With the breadth of issues they must manage, it is understandable that directors place a number of competing interests higher up their list of priorities than legal knowledge and it is perhaps beneficial to their lawyers at the same time. However, it is still important that directors do understand some of the fundamental legal responsibilities that are inherent in their position.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Do Third Parties to Construction Contracts Have a Right to Adjudicate?

An interesting case was decided in 2014 which shed further light on whether a third party to an appointment contract for a construction project could force the contractor into adjudication proceedings.

In Hurley Palmer Flatt Limited v Barclays Bank PLC [2014] the court had to consider to what extent the rights of a third party, which are enforceable under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, could influence the decision to adjudicate.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Re X (A Child) Decision on Time Limits Good News for Family Cases

Procedural rules and time limits are an important part of the legal system. Without them cases would become unmanageable and access to justice would be considerably more expensive, slower and more difficult for ordinary people to understand.

Despite the need to address those concerns, it would be strange system if the rules were applied so strictly that outcomes were manifestly unfair, unjust or harmful to the interest of users or the wider public, particularly where children are involved.

It is not always easy to say that courts have struck the right balance but a recent family law case relating to a parental order has firmly demonstrated their ability to do so.

Tough PI Reforms to Follow Enactment of The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in 2015

Personal injury (PI) claims have come under considerable scrutiny in the last few years and 2014 looks set to be a vital year for PI reform.

Following the implementation of the civil justice reforms last year, momentum has built to further improve the procedure for PI claims. As a consequence there has been a late but significant addition to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is presently before Parliament and is expected to become law by January 2015. Clauses 49 to 53 deal specifically with PI claims. Significantly the whole claim has to be dismissed by the courts if there is any element of ‘fundamental dishonesty’ and the bill also proposes to disallow PI law firms from offering incentives.