Callery v Gray appeal dismissed by Lords

The House of Lords has dismissed an appeal by defence counsel Beachcroft Wansbroughs in Callery v Gray by a majority of four to one.
The decision not to revoke earlier judgments on conditional fee agreement success fees and after-the-event (ATE) insurance premiums has been heralded by Beachcrofts’ opposition, The Lawyer’s Litigation Team of the Year Amelans, as a coup for claimants.
Amelans partner Martin Cockx said: “I am very pleased that access to justice has won the day. For our clients it means an easier ride where previously they had been blatantly hindered by defendant insurers.”
Fellow partner Andrew Twambley said: “The sun has shone on the righteous and the substantial groundwork. The courts and claimant lawyers can now continue to develop as Lord Justice Woolf intended. Had the House of Lords decided differently, there would have been chaos in which only the big insurance companies would have benefited.”
However, the judgment is less clear cut than Amelans suggests. Lord Bingham said that the basis for dismissing the appeal was that the House of Lords was not the appropriate forum for the debate. As a result, this judgment brings Callery v Gray to an end but does not establish concrete ground rules for the funding of such claims.
He said the funding arrangements “should operate so as to promote access to justice, but not so as to confer disproportionate benefits on legal practitioners or ATE insurers, or impose unfair burdens on defendants or their insurers.”
All five Lords expressed concern at the scope for abuse available to both sides in personal injury claims, but varied in their proffered solutions. While some believed precedent-setting court decisions would mark out a framework for the future, others suggested that the Government should intervene and clarify its intentions.
Andrew Parker, litigation partner at Beachcrofts, handled the case for Norwich Union. He said: “It’s disappointing that, although the House of Lords recognised the problem, it felt it shouldn’t intervene. The effect of the decision is that in the absence of legislative or regulatory intervention, it is inevitable that we will see further litigation. That is not the certainty that either side needs.”