Earlier in the year, Samantha Roberts, the widow of the first UK soldier to die in action in Iraq, won her long campaign to force the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to accept liability for her husband’s death.
“There were lots of things happening in Iraq that were avoidable, even in a wartime situation,” comments Geraldine McCool, a partner who specialises in claims against the military at Manchester-based law firm McCool Patterson Hemsi & Co (MPH). She is currently representing seven families of Iraqi servicemen with similar claims. “They’ve been gathering evidence for a long time and initially I was told that, because of combat immunity, there would be no question of any admission of liability,” she adds. “But I kept pressing the MoD and now combat immunity has been waived.”
MPH split from claimant firm Leigh Day & Co a year ago this month. It claims it has had 358 new clients since it demerged
and has seen considerable cost benefits
from going it alone. McCool says the
firm’s expenditure on outsourcing, IT and accounts has been cut by 28 per cent, primarily by relying on local providers.
The firm is based around the expertise of its three main equity partners. McCool specialises in aviation crashes, product liability and claims against the MoD. She has acted for claimants in high-profile cases such as Piper Alpha, Lockerbie and that of the 25 anti-terrorist experts who died when an RAF Chinook crashed in fog in 1994.
Frank Patterson heads up the clinical negligence team and acts for clients such as the Communication Workers Union. Prior to Leigh Day, both McCool and Patterson headed the personal injury practice at Manchester firm Pannone & Partners at separate times.
Dominic Hemsi specialises in work-related claims, industrial disease and road traffic cases. The three lawyers share managing partner duties. There is a total of 19 staff at the newly-formed firm, including three assistant solicitors, a legal executive, five paralegals and one house nurse.
“We’re a firm that isn’t afraid of litigation after all the options are explored,” McCool says. “We don’t have a mission statement, but we do accept that litigation can be difficult for our clients. We try and get them to buy into that process and work hand-in-hand
with them. Also, we have some extremely knowledgeable clients, whether they’re members of a trade union who know all about their equipment or soldiers who know all about that particular manoeuvre.”
McCool’s best-known client lost her husband, Steve Roberts, a 33-year-old sergeant from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, when he was shot by ‘friendly fire’. Hours earlier he had been told to hand over his flak jacket to a soldier who was not equipped with one. His wife, Samantha, hit the headlines when she clashed with Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon after she released tapes of her husband talking of his concerns over equipment shortages. McCool reports that it is “a question of working out the figures” in that case. “We’re pressing the MoD as to whether the other cases are combat immunity,” she adds. Last week the firm agreed a £7m settlement with the MoD on another action.
|Mccool Patterson Hemsi & Co|
|Managing partners||Geraldine McCool, Frank Patterson and Dominic Hemsi (all share managing partner duties equally)|
|Total number of partners||Three|
|Total number of solicitors||Six|
|Main practice areas||Claimant personal injury and clinical negligence|
|Key clients||Communication Workers Union, Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, RoadPeace and the Royal British Legion|
|Number of offices||One|
Geraldine McCool, Frank Patterson and Dominic Hemsi
Mccool Patterson Hemsi & Co