Scottish Government publishes bill to make civil justice more affordable and accessible

Written by Jenni Davidson on 2 June 2017 in News

New legislation introduces a number of reforms to civil litigation in Scotland

Scottish Parliament window - Image credit: Holyrood

The Scottish Government has published a new bill to make it easier and more affordable to take people to court.

If passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill will make the cost of court action more predictable,

The bill will introduce a sliding cap mechanism to make the legal fees in such cases clearer and protect people from facing a large expenses bill if they do not win personal injury claims.

It will allow solicitors, as well as claims management companies, to offer ‘no win, no fee’ damages-based agreements for the first time.

It will also enable groups of people to sue in the civil courts where they have the same or a similar claim against the same defender or defenders.

Currently under Scots law such cases have to be pursued separately.

The bill will implement the recommendations of former sheriff principal James Taylor’s 2013 Review of the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland.

Minister for Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said: “We know from Sheriff Principal Taylor’s review that the potential costs involved in civil court action can deter many people from pursuing legal action even where they have a justified claim.

“That is not acceptable and is something this bill will address by creating a more accessible, affordable and equitable civil justice system for Scotland.

“This legislation will expand the range of funding options available to pursuers while increasing protection from potentially crippling court costs.

“It will also, for the first time, allow multi-party actions in the Scottish civil courts – an important reform that will widen access to justice.”

James Taylor said: "The proposals address some concerns which may cause people not to exercise their legal rights and ultimately their right to go to court.

“The fear of having to pay their own solicitor and also the legal costs of their opponents can be a significant deterrent.

“This bill provides for the setting of a straightforward formula, in personal injury and other civil cases, to enable a client to work out what his or her own lawyers can charge. 

“It also removes the risk of having to pay their opponent's costs in personal injury cases, provided they have acted properly."

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