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Editorial: Review of the Year - Aidan Ellis, Temple Garden Chambers

20/12/17. As thoughts turn to Christmas and the New Year, it seems traditional to wrap up 2017 with some comment on the practical trends in personal injury litigation this year.

For junior lawyers in the London area, undoubtedly one trend is the continued rise of the floating list at Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court. It remains the case that fast track cases from a broad range of Courts end up at trial in Clerkenwell, often as one of a significant list of floating cases. Innovations to ensure that cases on the floating are allocated efficiently include asking Counsel to sign a document to verify their time estimates (no word yet on the sanction for exceeding these time estimates). Frustrating though it can be, the floating list is just one sign of the drive to cut costs in the County Courts. More troubling are reports of ongoing delays in dealing with correspondence and applications, which can have significant practical consequences.

In credit hire, one concerning trend has been a judicial willingness to allocate cases to a lower track than the normal track for the value of the case. I have seen cases worth £15,000 allocated to the small claims track, effectively wiping out any claim to costs with one stroke of the Judge’s pen. At the other end of the scale, while it was never unusual to see cases worth £30,000 allocated to the fast track, this year I have seen credit hire cases worth £80,000 or £90,000 allocated to the fast track on more than one occasion. It is not clear whether that is because McBride is perceived to have limited the issues arising from rates evidence or simply reflective of a wider weariness with credit hire litigation.

More generally, the personal injury world is once again waiting with a measure of anxiety to see what reforms the New Year brings. Looking back to my editorial last year, I see that broadly the same themes were troubling me in 2016. Over the last year, little has actually changed. But it would be naïve to assume that long discussed changes will be delayed indefinitely. It may well be that, this time next year, this editorial has to reflect on the implications of the introduction of tariffs for general damages in soft tissue injury cases and fixed costs creeping into the multi-track.

Aidan Ellis
Temple Garden Chambers


Image: public domain