We understand from Zurich’s Head of UK General Insurance, Conor Brennan, that their Business Operating Profits (BOP) were up 44.5%; from the £96.6m recorded last year, to £134m this year. This represents what must be considered a huge win for the insurance industry; particularly as most other SME’s in this country will have recorded profits, if any, in the single digit arena.
Despite the enormous profits obviously generated within the insurance industry, we hear that Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice and Sir Terence Etherton, The Master of the Rolls, have drafted in Jackson LJ, despite his apparent reluctance, to work on “a logical extension” of his 2010 report and put forward proposals on how best to extend fixed recoverable costs. Such review is understood to begin in January 2017; with a deadline of 31st July 2017 having now been set for the completion of such review. Apparently the current system is “exorbitantly expensive” and the extension of the fixed recoverable costs will “dispense with the need for costs budgeting, which not everyone enjoys”.
I wonder; if certain parts of the industry do not enjoy the extension of the fixed recoverable costs regime as strongly as they despise costs budgeting, could an argument not be made that the tenfold increase in the current fixed costs limit be simply scrapped? After all; if your injuries are serious enough to warrant recovery of damages as high as £250,000, would it not be fair to assume that such monies would make a considerable impact on a successful Claimant’s standard of living? Let us not forget that Claimant’s now pay their own ATE Premiums and Success Fees from their damages.
And all of this despite:
1) The Government’s Compensation Recovery Unit confirming a drop in the number of whiplash injuries registered by the CRU; from 571,111 in 2011 to 335,365 in 2016 and,
2) Aviva and the AA being quoted in an article by The Guardian Newspaper that Motor Vehicle Insurance Premiums increased by £82 over the past year; largely due to advanced technology in newer vehicles and the increased costs in post accident repairs to parking sensors in motor vehicle bumpers.
It was heartening therefore to hear Iain Stark, Chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers and Partner at Weightmans, come out and rightly state;
“Whilst recognising the desire for wholesale reform, thereby providing certainty in the legal costs arena, this must be tempered by accepting that access to justice must be the bedrock of any consultation.”
In other news; a couple of big decisions were reached. In Bird v Acorn Group Limited  EWCA Civ 1096 Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Briggs, with Master Gordon Saker (Senior Costs Judge) sitting as an Assessor, confirmed that:
“…listing a case for a disposal hearing following judgment, pursuant to Part 26 PD12, is listing for trial, for the purposes of triggering column 3 in Table 6D part B where a case which originated in the EL/PL Protocol settles after listing”.
Various Claimant’s v MGN Ltd  EWHC B29 (Costs) however; raised a few more interesting issues which can be summarised as follows:
1) Seeking relief from sanction for a delay in filing a Notice of Funding could not be granted as such sanction was proportionate to the breach because, in accordance with CPR, notice had to be given at the earliest opportunity,
2) Failure to provide such Notice of Funding will result in the additional liability (Success Fee) being disallowed for the period of delay and,
3) Retrospective Success Fees are permitted.
An interesting week, but lets hope things calm down a little in order to allow us the opportunity to get our Christmas shopping in before it’s too late.