Hey, Adjudication: take a simple claim, and make it quicker

Wednesday 10th August 2016

Earlier this year, the Professional Negligence Adjudication Pilot Scheme was relaunched by the Ministry of Justice. This scheme is a new form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for professional negligence matters, and as with other forms of ADR, any unreasonable refusal to adjudicate may result in a party being sanctioned through costs.

The adjudication scheme involves the parties agreeing to refer a matter to an independent adjudicator for a decision. The adjudicator is an experienced professional negligence barrister, who reviews all the papers and any witness statements provided by the parties to come to a reasoned decision. A decision is reached within 56 days of the referral. The parties can agree whether the decision will be legally binding, or whether recourse to the Court is still possible if one of the parties is unhappy with the outcome.

Adjudication is used successfully in many other dispute areas, particularly construction disputes where it has been a requirement for parties to adjudicate matters for a number of years. The costs of adjudication are generally lower and the outcome substantially quicker than going to Court.

The professional negligence adjudication scheme is aimed at negligence claims of a modest value where the costs could be similar to or more than the sum in question, and the facts are relatively straightforward and don’t call for comprehensive witness statements or expert reports. The scheme is therefore useful in straightforward negligence claims against solicitors, for example where a charge hasn’t been registered, or a solicitor has failed to undertake the appropriate identity checks on a client. The parties to an adjudication can decide whether each party should bear its own costs, limit recoverable costs to a cap, or allow the adjudicator to make whatever costs order it feels appropriate. This gives parties some certainty about the overall sum at risk from an early stage.

With the increase in Court fees and recent judicial decisions on the proportionality of costs, all parties to litigation should be trying to reach a resolution without issuing proceedings. Adjudication is another alternative that gives a party to litigation the opportunity to limit costs and reach a speedy resolution, particularly where a matter is relatively straightforward.

If you would like to explore adjudication further, please contact  Stephen McVey on 0113 227 0245 or at stephen.mcvey@gordonsllp.com or Catherine Woodward on 0113 227 0366 or at catherine.woodward@gordonsllp.com.