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Monday, 8 September 2014

Widow of Chain Smoker Awarded $23.6bn: Is There an Equivalent British Case?

Cynthia Robinson, the widow of a chain smoker, has been awarded $23.6bn (£14bn) in punitive damages following judgment in Florida.

RJ Reynolds Tobacco, the company which manufactured the cigarettes her husband had smoked, has been ordered to pay the sum as compensation following Cynthia Robinson’s filing of a lawsuit against the company in 2008 alleging wrongful-death.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Supreme Court Eases Pain of Holiday Injuries for UK Insurers

As the summer of 2014 draws to a close there are those who will be suffering from more than just feeling seasonally SAD. In addition to the direct pain injuries sustained on holiday can bring, there are also a number of legal complexities that can follow.

The conflict of laws governing torts including personal injuries occurring whilst on holiday was in question in the case of Katerina Cox v Ergo Versicherung AG [2014] at the beginning of the year.

The question as to which law is applicable, that of the state hosting the accident or that of the state to which the claimant is resident remains an important one. It is generally accepted that English law provides for more generous payouts of damages than, for example, French law.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Will a New Parliamentary Bill Bring the Abolition of Chancel Repair Liability?

Chancel repair liability is a long standing legal provision which makes homeowners liable for the repair of churches where a parish has registered an overriding interest in their land. The potential costs attached to repairing churches can give homeowners unholy nightmares but unfortunately the title deeds of a house do not necessarily show that liability for chancel repairs exists.

Parochial Church Councils had until October 2013 to register chancel repair liability with the Land Registry. Properties sold after this date where no interest has been registered cannot be held liable but properties where an interest has been registered or which have not been sold since October 2013 may continue to be held liable.

The National Secular Society has alleged that 12,000 properties have already had a registration notice served on them, and many more may yet receive one. As a result, public interest and awareness in the issue has increased.

The only way to remove the liability is to convince the parish to do so, or to prove the liability was enforced incorrectly. Abolition of chancel repair liability would therefore be a great relief to owners of encumbered properties given the vast expense often associate with it.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Certain Litigation Time Extensions Are Now Available Without an Application to Court

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) have been subjected to a variety of changes recently in order to foster a more co-operative approach to resolving disagreements between litigating parties.

CPR 3.8 has been amended effective from 5 June 2014 such that parties are able to agree extensions of a deadline of up to 28 days without application to court, provided such an agreement does not affect hearing dates.

The rule change is the latest example of the court system being tweaked to encourage co-operation between parties so as to facilitate more proportionate costs.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Refusing to Mediate May Bring Cost Penalties

Disputing parties should seriously consider mediation and other forms or dispute resolution where it is proposed as an alternative to court proceedings. Failure to do so may bring cost penalties.

Despite the fact that it appears to undermine the adversarial approach traditionally favoured in common law countries, mediation has become an increasingly popular mechanism of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in England and Wales.

It offers a less confrontational alternative to a court action and has proven to be very successful. It is estimated that 70% of cases taken before a mediator settle at the mediation stage or soon after.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Court of Appeal Decision to Impact Limitation Periods in Industrial Disease Claims

The issue of limitation periods – the period of time within which a party to a legal action must bring a claim – has been recently addressed in the case of Collins v Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills [2014].

Mr Collins, the claimant, worked as a dock-worker between 1947 and 1967 during which time he was exposed to asbestos. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002 but only got in touch with solicitors in 2009.

At first instance the claim was held to be time barred under the Limitation Act 1980. The Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether the lower court had correctly concluded the issue of the timing of the Claimant’s constructive knowledge and whether the court had erred in exercising its discretion by not extending the limitation period.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Credit Controls Not to Copy: Banks Chasing Debtors Through Defunct Solicitors Firms

It seems almost impossible for banks to avoid any opportunity to attract public opprobrium at the moment.

In the latest controversy, British banks, including RBS, Natwest, Lloyds and HSBC, have been caught out issuing legal demands to customers from what at first glance appear to be independent solicitors firms. However, on further investigation, these firms have been revealed to be mere names for the banks’ respective in-house lawyers and legal departments.

The revelation follows on from Wonga recently being ordered to pay over £2.6m in compensation to its customers as a result of its sending certain letters to its customers in the name of fictional legal entities.

All businesses should have effective credit control policies in place but those policies must be appropriate and legal.