After months of stand-off, insurers last week agreed to pay out almost £250,000 in legal fees owed to Hempsons Solicitors, which defended the NHS against a large-scale class action funded partly by conditional fee arrangements (CFAs).
The class action case was brought by 23 women who, along with 41 others, sued the NHS in its capacity as employer of deceased gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, whom the women accused of rape.
The 23 women had run their cases on CFAs either throughout or for part of the class action. The action collapsed after legal aid was withdrawn for some of the claimants, who were formerly represented by Launceston-based Jane Loveday Solicitors.
The insurers, represented by CMS Cameron McKenna, finally agreed liability in letters sent by brokers last week to Hempsons. Previously, they had contested payment to Hempsons on the grounds that the 23 claimants had not paid their insurance premiums.
Question marks remain over insurers’ liability for a further four women who also took out CFAs. Hempsons solicitor Nadya Wolferstan said: “We were told [by the claimants’ lawyers] that these four women had policies, but their insurers say they were never registered.”
Meanwhile, 10 other former claimants in the class action face paying Hempsons’ legal fees out of their own pockets, following agreement between the parties involved that they did not pay insurance premiums.
Hempsons, whose total fees amount to £700,000, is expected to get £10,000 for each claimant. The remaining 22 claimants in the class action received legal aid.
Legal aid was withdrawn, though, following a request from Hempsons to cap Loveday’s costs, which sparked an investigation into the way the claimants’ litigation had been conducted.
Loveday’s practice has since been closed down by the Law Society, which is also investigating her conduct during the class action. Loveday was not contactable for comment.
A hearing is due to take place in the High Court on 21 June before Mrs Justice Hallett to make a final costs order and to formally discontinue the class action.