Litigation costs in England: on a slippery slope

An independent working group chaired by Ken Oliphant, Director of the Institute for European Tort Law and Professor of Tort Law at the University of Bristol, has called on the British Government to think again in its current proposals to change the civil litigation system in England and Wales. Its recently released report - described as 'hard-hitting' by the Legal Futures website – finds that the Government's proposal to make successful claimants pay a proportion of their legal fees out of their damages is fundamentally unjust and likely to impact adversely on the victims of accidents, with those suffering serious injuries being particularly affected.

The document, On a slippery slope – a response to the Jackson Report (, 864 KB), finds that the evidence on which the Government relies is misleading and partial because it too frequently treats anecdote and opinion as if it were fact, and systematically undervalues countervailing evidence that favours the interests of injury victims.

The report - the work of 11 leading academic experts in personal injury law and related fields - has already attracted considerable media interest, with headline features on both the Legal Futures and Law Gazette websites.

UPDATE 2/17/2011: The working group's report has been featured in an article in The Guardian, which describes the group's intervention as 'potentially significant' and remarks: 'At last an independent perspective.'

UPDATE 5/17/2011:
On Wednesday 18 May 2011, Ken Oliphant will address a meeting of the (British) All-Party Parliamentary Group for Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the Houses of Parliament, Westminster. The meeting will also be addressed by Lord Justice (Rupert) Jackson, author of the report on Civil Litigation Costs that forms the basis of the Government's current reform proposals. For Lord Justice Jackson's response to criticisms made by the independent working group of which Ken Oliphant was chair, click here (, 135 KB).

UPDATE 27/09/2011: Institute Director, Ken Oliphant, has again been featured in the British media in the ongoing process of reforming the law of civil litigation funding in England and Wales ('the Jackson reforms'), being cited in a recent article by The Guardian's social affairs editor. He was quoted as saying: 'You have to understand that legal aid was cut and no win no fee arrangements were meant to replace them, to allow people access to justice. If you remove that right then you will not allow ordinary people to have access to justice. If they have to pay for legal costs out of damages it may not be worth going to court.'




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