Firms wage war on LAB over Gulf work

THREE law firms at the forefront of a campaign to sue the Ministry of Defence over 'Gulf War syndrome' are planning to take the Legal Aid Board to court after losing their bid to lead the multi-party action.

The row flared after a consortium, made up of Donn & Co, Leigh Day & Co and Roythorne & Co, based in Manchester, London and Lincolnshire respectively, failed to win a bid for the contract to lead the Gulf War victims' case.

They lost out to King's Lynn firm Dawbarns and Plymouth-based Geoffrey Stevens & Co, but an application for leave to judicially review the board is imminent.

The three firms currently have around 668 clients on their books and three years ago established the Gulf War Action Group to press the claims of victims of a variety of afflictions often described as Gulf War syndrome.

They also agreed with the Ministry of Defence to set up a register of claimants who would not be subject to the three-year limitation period.

Donn & Co partner Hilary Meredith, joint co-ordinator of the action group, was alerted to the problem of Gulf War Syndrome in 1991 and has been researching it ever since.

She said her firm alone had 340 clients and had been issued with 250 individual legal aid certificates.

She added it had also received seven generic certificates before the contract was tendered out.

“This is the first time I've heard of the board deciding to tender out a contract after a firm has been issued with a generic certificate.

“We've done a massive amount of work on this and have a separate department just dealing with the claims, it's extremely disappointing.”

A spokesman for the Legal Aid Board said the numbers of clients represented by firms tendering for the contract was not the only factor considered.

“Basically it has to decide which tender demonstrates the ability to do the generic work more effectively for the legally aided clients.”