In a debate this week, members of the Scottish Parliament have given their backing to a Bill which implements recommendations made by Sheriff Principal Taylor after his review of expenses and funding of civil litigation in Scotland.
The initial review by Sheriff Principal Taylor, which lasted more than two years, covered issues concerning the expense and funding of civil litigation in Scotland.
The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill was welcomed by MSP's and it has cleared its first parliamentary stage without the need for a vote.
The purpose of the Bill
The Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 1 June 2017 and written submissions from interested parties closed on 31 July 2017. The Justice Committee then considered the Bill and reviewed written and oral submissions.
The aim of the Bill is to increase access to justice in Scotland and the following changes are proposed in the Bill:
- Introducing damages- based agreements which would allow solicitors to be paid a percentage of the client's compensation where a court claim is successful. The Bill would enable caps to be put in place to limit the fee level in these and other forms of no win, no fee arrangements;
- Introducing of qualified, one- way costs shifting for personal injury cases. This would protect a pursuer from being required to pay the defenders' legal expenses if they lost their case, but still allow them to claim legal expenses from the defender if they won;
- Placing new requirements on commercially- motivated third parties who fund litigation in which they do not have a direct interest;
- Creating salaried posts for auditors of court, to be employed through the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service; and
- Empowering the court to introduce rules to support group proceedings, whereby one set of court proceedings may be brought on behalf of two or more parties.
The Bill seeks to put in statute approximately half of the recommendations of Sheriff Principal Taylor's review with some of his recommendations, for example on sanction for court, already being implemented in the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.
The Bill now moves onto Stage 2 where amendments will be considered.
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