I was recently instructed to attend an Infant Approval Hearing in relation to 2 Infant Claimants (H & C).
The papers arrived the day before the hearing was due to take place and I set out in perusing the same and preparing for the hearing. The papers comprised of pleadings, medical evidence, draft order and witness statement and a set of instructions which on the face of it appeared complete.
However, when perusing the same, I noticed that the witness statements from the Litigation Friend were obviously ‘copy and pasted’ and sent out to the Litigation Friend for signing. The witness statement confirmed that the children had made a full recovery in line with the medical report and that the Litigation Friend agreed with the medical report and Counsel’s opinion.
I say they were obviously ‘copy and pasted’ because (H)’s witness statement actually referred to (C). So with less than 24 hours to go, we had no witness statement from the Litigation Friend in respect of (C).
I contacted my instructing solicitors and notified them of the problem. They therefore set out in making the necessary amendments and asked me to take the statement to Court and ask the Litigation Friend to sign the same at the hearing. Luckily, the Court did not require the statements nor even check them in any event and (H)’s damages were approved.
However, whilst clarifying the statement issue, I was also notified by the instructing solicitor fee that they had made an application to amend the name of (C) as they had issued Part 8 proceedings without sight of the birth certificate and so, they had not only got the surname of (C) incorrect but also missed out his middle names. The surnames (which have been changed for the purpose of this post) were ‘Willis’ and ‘Rodgers’
I can only assume that what had happened is that when the file was first opened on a case management system, the surname of the Litigation Friend ‘Willis’ had been entered and not the actual surname of (C) ‘Rodgers’. This meant when the fee earner had pressed the button to produce the Court documents, the documents were produced with the Claimant’s name being ‘Willis’
You would think it was a simple administrative error.
At the hearing, it was confirmed that the application was successful and the Claimant was given permission to amend the name in line with the birth certificate however, what happened next was not predicted.
I went on to seek approval of (C)’s damages and the Judge perused the Court file for the medical report. (I of course had my own copy – my medical report had the name of ‘Rodgers’ detailed on the cover)
The Judge found the report and said that his medical report had the name of ‘Willis’ on it. I checked my report and noted my report had the name of ‘Rodgers’. Both reports were dated the same day and neither report made mention of any amendments being made. I passed my report to the Judge.
He then questioned whether the expert had checked the ID of the child at the time of the examination. I checked my report and it stated that the expert had checked the birth certificate. However in the Judge’s report, it stated that no ID was brought to the examination.
The Litigation Friend could not confirm whether she took ID to the examination.
The Judge and I agreed on the assumption that the report had been originally prepared with the name of ‘Willis’ and upon noticing the error, the solicitors had presented the birth certificate to the expert who then changed the name to ‘Rodgers’ and amended his report to say that a birth certificate had been checked.
Unfortunately, the Judge was not willing to approve the settlement as he need clarification from the expert and/or the Claimant’s Solicitors that the report presented was in fact for (C) and so he adjourned the matter.
What appeared to have happened is the same as the Claim Form. The letter of instruction to the expert was produced by the case management system. The system brought in the name of ‘Willis’ and when the error was found after issue, the solicitors contacted the expert with a copy of the birth certificate and asked him to change the report.
The solicitors however failed to provide the Court with the updated copy of the report resulting in the adjournment and further costs incurred.
The key points to take away from this:
- If you use a case management system – ensure your data is correct and check all work that is produced by it
- If you use copy and paste – always check your work
- Never issue Part 8 proceedings for Approval without a Birth Certificate
- If you are trying to cut corners and save costs by using cheap labour and an inefficient case management system – it will cost you more in the long run
If you require any advice or information on Infant Approval Hearings (including my best rates) please call 0151 230 8931 or email [email protected]